Psychological Medicine

Original Articles

Adrenal secretion during major depression in 8- to 16-year-olds, I. Altered diurnal rhythms in salivary cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) at presentation

I. M. Goodyera1 c1, J. Herberta1, P. M. E. Althama1, J. Pearsona1, S. M. Sechera1 and H. M. Shiersa1

a1 Developmental Psychiatry Section, Department of Psychiatry, Department of Anatomy, MRC Cambridge Centre for Brain Repair and the Statistical Laboratory, University of Cambridge


The association between basal cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), its sulphate (DHEAS) and major depression was investigated in 8- to 16-year-olds. Eighty-two subjects with major depression, 25 non-depressed psychiatric cases and 40 community controls were systematically assessed for current mental state and hormone levels at 08.00, 12.00 and 20.00 h, assayed from salivary samples collected over a 48 h period. The average mean of the two time points was compared between the three groups. Evening cortisol hypersecretion and morning DHEA hyposecretion were significantly, and independently, associated with major depression. High evening cortisol (> 0·594 ng/ml) and low morning DHEA (< 0·200 ng/ml) identified subgroups of depressives with different types of adrenal hormone dysregulation. The association between high evening cortisol or low morning DHEA and MDD was not affected by either age or gender.


c1 Address for correspondence: Professor I. M. Goodyer, Developmental Psychiatry Section, Douglas House, 18b Trumpington Road, Cambridge CB2 2AH.