Buffer against Cumulative Stress Positive Age Self-Stereotypes Predict Lower Cortisol across 30 Years

Becca R. Levy, Scott Moffat, Susan M. Resnick, Martin D. Slade, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Prolonged elevation of cortisol, the primary stress biomarker, is associated with impaired cognitive and physical health. Cortisol tends to increase in later life among most, but not all, older individuals. The current study considered whether this pattern could be explained by more-positive age stereotypes acting as a stress buffer. The 439 participants drawn from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging provided 1,789 cortisol measurements, from 24-h collections of urine, across 30 years. Among those aged 50 or greater, the cortisol of themore-negative age-stereotype group increased by 44%, whereas the more-positive age-stereotype group showed no increase. Also as expected, there was no association of age stereotypes and cortisol level among the younger participants, for whom the age stereotypes were self-irrelevant. The findings indicate the importance of considering the relationship between both positive and negative stereotypes and stress biomarkers over time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)141-146
Number of pages6
JournalGeroPsych: The Journal of Gerontopsychology and Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes



  • Age stereotypes
  • cortisol
  • cumulative stress
  • longitudinal
  • resilience
  • stress
  • stress buffer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gerontology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology

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