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      Device-Measured Desk-Based Occupational Sitting Patterns and Stress (Hair Cortisol and Perceived Stress)

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          Background: Stress and poor mental health are significant issues in the workplace and are a major cause of absenteeism and reduced productivity. Understanding what might contribute towards employee stress is important for managing mental health in this setting. Physical activity has been shown to be beneficial to stress but less research has addressed the potential negative impact of sedentary behaviour such as sitting. Therefore, the aim of this study was to assess the relationship between device-measured occupational desk-based sitting patterns and stress (hair cortisol levels (HCL), as a marker of chronic stress and self-reported perceived stress (PS)). Methods: Employees were recruited from four workplaces located in Central Scotland with large numbers of desk-based occupations. Seventy-seven participants provided desk-based sitting pattern data (desk-based sitting time/day and desk-based sit-to-stand transitions/day), a hair sample and self-reported perceived stress. HCL were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and PS using the Cohen Self-Perceived Stress Scale. Linear regression models were used to test associations between desk-based sitting time/day, desk-based sit-to-stand transitions/day, HCL and PS. Results: There were no associations between any of the desk-based sitting measures and either HCL or PS. Conclusions: Desk-based sitting patterns in the workplace may not be related to stress when using HCL as a biomarker of chronic stress or PS. The relationship between sitting patterns and stress therefore requires further investigation.

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          Most cited references 25

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          Understanding Power and Rules of Thumb for Determining Sample Sizes

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            Physical activity dose-response effects on outcomes of depression and anxiety.

            The purpose of this study was to examine the scientific evidence for a dose-response relation of physical activity with depressive and anxiety disorders. Computer database searches of MEDLINE, PsychLit, and Internet and personal retrieval systems to locate population studies, randomized controlled trials (RCTs), observational studies, and consensus panel judgments were conducted. Observational studies demonstrate that greater amounts of occupational and leisure time physical activity are generally associated with reduced symptoms of depression. Quasi-experimental studies show that light-, moderate-, and vigorous-intensity exercise can reduce symptoms of depression. However, no RCTs have varied frequency or duration of exercise and controlled for total energy expenditure in studies of depression or anxiety. Quasi-experimental and RCTs demonstrate that both resistance training and aerobic exercise can reduce symptoms of depression. Finally, the relation of exercise dose to changes in cardiorespiratory fitness is equivocal with some studies showing that fitness is associated with reduction of symptoms and others that have demonstrated reduction in symptoms without increases in fitness. All evidence for dose-response effects of physical activity and exercise come from B and C levels of evidence. There is little evidence for dose-response effects, though this is largely because of a lack of studies rather than a lack of evidence. A dose-response relation does, however, remain plausible.
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              Hair cortisol, stress exposure, and mental health in humans: a systematic review.

              The deleterious effects of chronic stress on health and its contribution to the development of mental illness attract broad attention worldwide. An important development in the last few years has been the employment of hair cortisol analysis with its unique possibility to assess the long-term systematic levels of cortisol retrospectively. This review makes a first attempt to systematically synthesize the body of published research on hair cortisol, chronic stress, and mental health. The results of hair cortisol studies are contrasted and integrated with literature on acutely circulating cortisol as measured in bodily fluids, thereby combining cortisol baseline concentration and cortisol reactivity in an attempt to understand the cortisol dynamics in the development and/or maintenance of mental illnesses. The studies on hair cortisol and chronic stress show increased hair cortisol levels in a wide range of contexts/situations (e.g. endurance athletes, shift work, unemployment, chronic pain, stress in neonates, major life events). With respect to mental illnesses, the results differed between diagnoses. In major depression, the hair cortisol concentrations appear to be increased, whereas for bipolar disorder, cortisol concentrations were only increased in patients with a late age-of-onset. In patients with anxiety (generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder), hair cortisol levels were reported to be decreased. The same holds true for patients with posttraumatic stress disorder, in whom - after an initial increase in cortisol release - the cortisol output decreases below baseline. The effect sizes are calculated when descriptive statistics are provided, to enable preliminary comparisons across the different laboratories. For exposure to chronic stressors, the effect sizes on hair cortisol levels were medium to large, whereas for psychopathology, the effect sizes were small to medium. This is a first implication that the dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in the development and/or maintenance of psychopathology may be more subtle than it is in healthy but chronically stressed populations. Future research possibilities regarding the application of hair cortisol research in mental health and the need for multidisciplinary approaches are discussed. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                Int J Environ Res Public Health
                International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
                30 May 2019
                June 2019
                : 16
                : 11
                [1 ]Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA, UK; g.m.dreczkowski@ (G.D.); i.j.gallagher@ (I.G.); r.a.chesham@ (R.C.)
                [2 ]Department of Nursing and Midwifery, University of the Highlands and Islands, Inverness IV3 5SQ, UK; trish.gorely@
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: gemma.ryde@ ; Tel.: +44-1786-466-384
                © 2019 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (


                Public health

                hair cortisol, sitting, sedentary, stress, poor mental health, workplace


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