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Public Health


Although stress is often hypothesized to contribute to the effects of neighborhoods on health, very few studies have investigated associations of neighborhood characteristics with stress biomarkers. This study helps address the gap in the literature by examining whether neighborhood characteristics are associated with cortisol profiles. Analyses were based on data from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis Stress study which collected multiple measures of salivary cortisol over three days on a population based sample of approximately 800 adults. Multilevel models with splines were used to examine associations of cortisol with neighborhood poverty, violence, disorder, and social cohesion. Neighborhood violence was significantly associated with lower cortisol values at wakeup and with a slower decline in cortisol over the earlier part of the day, after sociodemographic controls. Associations were weaker and less consistent for neighborhood poverty, social cohesion, and disorder. Results revealed suggestive, though limited, evidence linking neighborhood contexts to cortisol circadian rhythms.

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