Cortisol awakening response as an index of mental health and well-being in adolescents

Nikki S. Rickard, Tan-Chyuan Chin, Dianne A. Vella-Brodrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Physiological measures provide a useful complement to self-report indices of mental health and well-being. The cortisol awakening response (CAR) has been associated with mental distress, but less consistently so with positive functioning. In this study, the utility of two CAR indices as a measure of the full spectrum of mental health and well-being in a sample of healthy adolescents was explored. Forty-seven adolescents (14M, 33F; mean age 13.89, SD = .73) completed questionnaires on mental distress and positive functioning, and provided three saliva samples for cortisol analysis as well as demographic and life event information. Correlational analyses revealed that both absolute CAR (CARi) and area under the curve during awakening (CARAUC) indices correlated positively with measures of mental distress, and inversely with measures of positive functioning. When the significant life events score was controlled, moderate to strong effects were maintained with negative and positive affect, mental well-being, satisfaction with life and perceived social support from significant others. These findings provide the first data confirming that CAR is a reliable index of positive functioning in healthy adolescents.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2555-2568
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Happiness Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


  • cortisol
  • mental health
  • adolescents
  • physiological
  • social support
  • hedonic well-being
  • psychological well-being

Cite this