Testing the ecological validity of the Trier Social Stress Test: Association with real-life exam stress.

TitleTesting the ecological validity of the Trier Social Stress Test: Association with real-life exam stress.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsHenze G-I, Zänkert S, Urschler DF, Hiltl TJ, Kudielka BM, Pruessner JC, Wüst S
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume75
Pagination52-55
Date Published2017 Jan
ISSN1873-3360
Abstract

The Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) is the most widely used laboratory stress protocol in psychoneuroendocrinology. Despite its popularity, surprisingly few attempts have been made to explore the ecological validity of the TSST. In the present study, 31 young healthy subjects (24 females) were exposed to the TSST about 4 weeks before completing an oral exam on a separate day. Salivary cortisol levels increased significantly in response to both stimuli (TSST: F(2.21, 66.33)=5.73, p=0.004; oral exam: F(1.98, 59.28)=4.38, p=0.017) with similar mean response curves and significant correlations between cortisol increases and areas under the response curves (increase: r=0.67; AUC: r=0.56; both p≤0.01). Correspondingly, changes in positive and negative affect did also show significant correlations between conditions (increase: positive affect: r=0.36; negative affect: r=0.50; both: p≤0.05; AUC: positive affect: r=0.81; negative affect: r=0.70; both p≤0.01) while mean time course dynamics were significantly different (positive affect: F(2.55, 76.60)=10.15, p=0.001; negative affect: F(1.56, 46.82)=23.32, p=0.001), indicating that the oral exam had a more pronounced impact on affect than the TSST. Our findings provide new evidence for the view that cortisol as well as subjective stress responses to the TSST are indeed significantly associated with acute stress responses in real life.

DOI10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.10.002
Alternate JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
PubMed ID27771565