Cortisone in hair of elementary school girls and its relationship with childhood stress

Barbara Vanaelst, Nathalie Michels, Tineke De Vriendt, Inge Huybrechts, Krishna Vyncke, Isabelle Sioen, Karin Bammann, Noellie Rivet, Jean Sebastien Raul, Denes Molnar, Stefaan De Henauw

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Children may be exposed to stressful situations with adverse effects on their physiological and psychological health. As cortisone may be a useful additional biomarker for stress research and as it has been shown to be detectable in human hair, this study measured physiological concentrations of hair cortisone in 223 elementary school girls and explored its relationship with child-reported estimates of stress, more specifically questionnaires on major life events (i.e., Coddington Life Events Scale for Children), emotions (i.e., anger, anxiety, sadness, and happiness), and coping strategies (i.e., emotion- versus problem-focused coping). Cortisone concentrations were positively correlated with the overall life event score for the past 6 months (rho = 0.223, p = 0.004), as well as with the negative event score for this period (rho = 0.227, p = 0.003; N = 165). Cortisone did not correlate with emotions or coping styles reported by the children. Conclusion: Despite its exploratory nature, this study may suggest elevated hair cortisone concentrations under psychosocial stress in young children. Although the observed findings should be interpreted with prudence, this study may encourage further research elucidating the potential importance and relevance of hair cortisone analysis as an additional or substituting stress biomarker for hair cortisol.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-846
Number of pages4
JournalEuropean Journal of Pediatrics
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Child
  • Cortisone
  • Hair
  • Life events
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health

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    Vanaelst, B., Michels, N., De Vriendt, T., Huybrechts, I., Vyncke, K., Sioen, I., Bammann, K., Rivet, N., Raul, J. S., Molnar, D., & De Henauw, S. (2013). Cortisone in hair of elementary school girls and its relationship with childhood stress. European Journal of Pediatrics, 172(6), 843-846.