Due to its anti-glucocorticoid properties, the steroid hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) might play a role for coping with traumatic stress and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The majority of studies report elevated DHEA secretion and decreased cortisol/DHEA ratio associated with traumatic stress, however, contrasting results have also been published. One reason for this heterogeneity might be that in past studies, DHEA has been measured in plasma or saliva samples reflecting acute hormone levels. In comparison, the current study assessed the hair levels of DHEA and cortisol as long-term markers along with self-reported data on psychopathology and coping in 92 female adolescents aged 11-16 from theWest Bank affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Results showed that trauma-exposed individuals had significantly higher DHEA levels (p = 0.013) and lower cortisol/DHEA ratios (p = 0.036) than participants from the non-trauma group. Furthermore, DHEA and cortisol/DHEA ratio emerged as associated with trauma load and timing, but not with coping. By applying the novel method of DHEA analysis from hair samples, this study adds to the growing literature on the interplay of DHEA, cortisol, traumatic stress and coping, and provides valuable starting points for further research.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Traumatic stress
- Violent conflict