Longitudinal change in cortisol levels across the adult life span

Scott D. Moffat, Yang An, Susan M. Resnick, Michael P. Diamond, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Background: Cortisol is a key stress hormone implicated in the pathogenesis of many age-related diseases. Longitudinal information on cortisol exposure has been restricted to animal models and a small number of human studies. The purpose of the present study was to quantify longitudinal change in cortisol across the adult life span. Methods: We conducted a prospective longitudinal study of 24-hour urinary free cortisol excretion from ages 20 to 90 years and older. Participants were 1,814 men and women from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging who provided a total of 5,527 urine specimens for analysis. The average duration of longitudinal follow-up was 6.6 years. The primary outcome measure was 24-hour urinary free cortisol to creatinine ratio (UFC/Cr) as determined by liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry. Results: UFC/Cr follows a U-shaped pattern across the life span with decreases in UFC/Cr in the 20s and 30s, relative stability in the 40s and 50s, and increases thereafter. This pattern of change was robust with respect to adjustment for several potential confounding factors. Conclusions: Age-related changes in cortisol exposure raise important questions about the potential protective or exacerbating role of cortisol exposure in predicting medical, physiological, and behavioral outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-400
Number of pages7
JournalJournals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2020


  • Aging
  • Corticosteroid
  • Cortisol
  • Glucocorticoid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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