Several studies have found that cortisol hypersecretion may occur in severely depressed patients who are characterized by melancholic features. On the other hand, illness chronicity seems to be related to low, rather than high, cortisol levels. This study aims to trace factors associated with 24-h urinary free cortisol levels in a sample of 23 elderly persons with major or minor depression and 21 non-depressed control subjects. Depressive episodes were subdivided according to severity and chronicity (i.e. length and recurrence). None of the depressed persons showed unusually high 24-h cortisol levels, and cortisol excretion was not elevated as compared with that in the control group, regardless of subtype of depression. The results suggest, however, that hyposecretion of cortisol may be a feature of chronic depressive episodes, especially in males. © 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
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