The interplay of acute cortisol response and trait affectivity in associating with stress resilience

Robin Shao, Idy S.C. Man, Suk Yu Yau, Cheng Li, Pinky Y.P. Li, Wai Kai Hou, Shirley Xin Li, Yan Liu, Yun Kwok Wing, Tatia MC Lee (Corresponding Author)

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review


Resilience is the cornerstone to mental health, and entails multiple biological and psychological mechanistic processes. However, the interplay of the psychobiological processes in shaping resilience is unclear. Here we report the results of testing whether an acute cortisol response and positive affectivity traits moderate the relationship between participants’ five-year major life stress and current psychological symptoms. The participants comprised 147 individuals (93 females and 54 males, age = 24–45 years) without clinical diagnosis. Acute stress was induced using the Trier Social Stress Task. We found that both the cortisol response to anticipatory acute stress and positive affectivity moderated the stress–symptom relationship. Specifically, a positive relationship between life stress and current symptoms was only observed at low, but not high, levels of cortisol response and positive affectivity. Moreover, the moderating effect of cortisol response was only observed at a low level of trait positive affectivity. These results unravel how the biological and emotional processes of the stress response interact to shape resilience to major life stress.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)114
Number of pages123
JournalNature Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 Feb 2023


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