Hair could be the key to better mental-illness diagnosis in teens

Posted on July 26, 2019

In a recent research, the researchers looking to find a relationship between the cortisol, the stress hormone, and likelihood of depression within teens found a connection that indicates possibility for this as a method of diagnosis in the future. It was found that high cortisol levels were indicative of a greater inclination or likelihood of depression, but it was additionally found that low cortisol levels also corresponded to mental health issues.

Jodi Ford, the lead author of the study, states that although research has been conducted regarding the cortisol levels in the past, there have been mixed results. Hence, this new study adds important information to the realm of research regarding cortisol levels and mental health.

Ford further states that further research will be needed to confidently conclude that high cortisol and low cortisol are negative while a medium level is most healthy. However, there are many other factors that also come into play. A strong support system from home help to lower cortisol levels; similarly, certain people may have a more blunted and less pronounce effect towards stress.

The research used a 3cm hair sample from each client while also providing them with a nine-item questionnaire to measure the level of depression. While not confidently conclusive, the study showed that both low levels or cortisol and high levels of cortisol were indicative of a greater likelihood of depression. Although further research is needed in order to solidify the findings from this study, this presents hope for easier detection in adolescents in the near future. This holds potential for greater convenience and greater accuracy while simultaneously also holding potential for a method of observing the progress of a treatment.’

The article highlighted that this represents an important tool in the future as adolescents and children can often struggle to pinpoint their feelings or symptoms, but a scientific method of measurement avoids such an obstacle. Ford states that they would like to continue with this study under a larger setting and over a greater period, in order to develop greater supporting data. However, in an age where “nearly one in eight adolescents have experienced a major depressive episode, according to 2016 data” it is important for such technological developments to be created in order to tackle the growing rates of adolescent and childhood depression.


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