Determinants of Chronic Biological Stress, Measured as Hair Cortisol Concentration, in a General Population of Adolescents: From Individual and Household Characteristics to Neighborhood Urbanicity

Veerle J. Verheyen*, Sylvie Remy, Eva Govarts, Ann Colles, Gudrun Koppen, Laura Rodriguez Martin, Flemming Nielsen, Liesbeth Bruckers, Esmée M. Bijnens, Stijn Vos, Bert Morrens, Dries Coertjens, Ilse Loots, Annelies De Decker, Carmen Franken, Elly Den Hond, Vera Nelen, Stefaan De Henauw, Adrian Covaci, Nicolas Van LarebekeCaroline Teughels, Tim S. Nawrot, Greet Schoeters

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Chronic biological stress may adversely affect adolescents' physical and mental health, but insight in the personal and environmental factors that determine chronic stress is limited. We measured 3-month cumulative hair cortisol concentration (HCC) in 419 adolescents, participating in the Flemish Environment and Health Study. Adolescents' health and lifestyle characteristics, household and neighborhood socio-economic status as well as neighborhood urbanicity were assessed as potential determinants of HCC, using multiple linear regression models. We additionally explored heterogeneity of our results by sex. HCC were significantly higher in boys from densely populated neighborhoods, the association was not significant in girls. Accordingly, boys living outside cities had significantly lower HCC than boys, living in cities. HCC was significantly lower in adolescents with an optimal vitality, a measure of a positive mental health status. In adolescent girls, menarcheal status (pre-/postmenarche) was a significant determinant of HCC. Our findings are the first to suggest that residential urbanicity may have an impact on chronic biological stress in a general population of adolescent boys.

Original languageEnglish
Article number669022
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Volume9
ISSN2296-2565
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 23. Nov 2021

Keywords

  • adolescents
  • chronic biological stress
  • determinants
  • Flemish environment and health study (FLEHS)
  • hair cortisol concentration
  • neighborhood urbanicity

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