Research Rural Therapies — 02 February 2017

New research into stress levels in the indigenous community could ultimately help to close the health gap.

clasped-hands-541849The study, published in medical journal Scientific Reports, found impaired secretion levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the young aboriginal adults they tested.

James Cook University Professor Zoltan Sarnyai said cortisol was usually at its highest in the morning.

“In the people who identified as indigenous, it was almost entirely missing,” Prof Sarnyai told AAP.

Cortisol helps the body to deal with the daily hassles and stresses of life.

To ensure the research was objective and non-biased, researchers took saliva and hair samples from the test subjects.

“It’s important to note that we had people who identified as indigenous, and people who identified as various other ethnicities,” Prof Sarnyai said.

It is highly unlikely the lack of cortisol production is due to genetic factors, according to the professor.

But the study couldn’t rule out other factors such as environmental surroundings and transgenerational trauma.

It’s hoped the study will open up ways to predict the development of mental health issues in the indigenous community.

“It allows us to objectively monitor efficacy of programs and policies to reduce the indigenous health gap,” Prof Sarnyai said.

This piece was originally published on ‘SBS News’ February 2, 2017.

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