Long-Term Effects of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami on Hair Cortisol Concentration

Ralph Lawton , Duke University
Elizabeth Frankenberg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Cecep Sumantri, SurveyMETER
Eileen Crimmins, University of Southern California
Teresa E. Seeman, University of California, Los Angeles
Duncan Thomas, Duke University

Chronic stress and adversity are linked to many negative health outcomes. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis, a key mediator of stress, stimulates cortisol release. We provide evidence on whether exposure to an exogenous acute stressor, direct exposure to the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, results in elevated cortisol concentrations 14 years later. We measure cortisol concentrations in hair, a stable measure of chronic biological stress, for a purposively-selected sample of 750 respondents in the Study of the Tsunami Aftermath and Recovery. The subjects have been followed since baseline (9 months before the tsunami) and interviewed six times since then providing high quality measures of exposure to the tsunami at the individual and community levels. Linking variation in these exposures, along with extensive socio-economic and health data collected in the study, to well-validated cortisol levels provides unique evidence on the longer-term impacts of the exposures on a major stress biomarker.

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 Presented in Session 144. Vulnerability and Resilience in “Hot Spots” of Acute and Chronic Environmental Change