Research Output
Assessment of occupational stress in higher education employees through the cortisol awakening response.
  Purpose: Although the cortisol awakening response (CAR) has been used to investigate occupational stress among various professions there are limitations to the interpretation of findings obtained through cross-sectional approaches. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of variation in acute work-related characteristics upon the CAR among higher education employees.
Design: Using a repeated measures design fifteen subjects (8 male; 38.2 ± 9.6 years) provided saliva samples immediately upon awakening and thirty minutes thereafter on three separate occasions. The response was compared on a single weekend day and two work days of differing levels of anticipatory psychosocial demand.

Main Findings: There was a significant effect of time with salivary cortisol being greater 30 minutes post awakening compared to awakening, confirming the presence of the cortisol awakening response. There was also a significant time and day interaction with levels of salivary cortisol at 30 mins post awakening being significantly greater on the high compared to low demand work day, or the weekend day. There was no difference in the cortisol awakening response between the low demand work day and the weekend day.

Implications for practice: This appears to be the first attempt to investigate the variation in the CAR across different work days with consideration for the level of acute anticipatory psychosocial demand present. This study highlights the importance of attending to the dynamic nature of the workplace when undertaking psychophysiological assessments of stress responses and has implications for work design among this cohort of employees.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    05 July 2017

  • Publication Status:


  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Campbell, T., Westbury, T., Davison, R. & Florida-James, G. (2017, July). Assessment of occupational stress in higher education employees through the cortisol awakening response. Poster presented at STAR Conference 2017, Hong Kong



Occupational stress, higher education, employees,

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