In a study of risk factors for the development of PTSD, Yehuda and her colleagues examined the association between cortisol and PTSD in children of holocaust survivors. Low cortisol levels were significantly associated with both PTSD in parents and lifetime PTSD in subjects, whereas having a current psychiatric diagnosis other than PTSD was relatively, but nonsignificantly, associated with higher cortisol levels. Offspring with both parental PTSD and lifetime PTSD had the lowest cortisol levels of all study groups. They concluded that parental PTSD is associated with low cortisol levels in offspring, even in the absence of lifetime PTSD in the offspring. They suggested that low cortisol levels in PTSD may constitute a vulnerability marker related to parental PTSD as well as a state-related characteristic associated with acute or chronic PTSD symptoms (Yehuda et al., 2000).
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