Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science






cortisol, stress, anxiety, levels, research


The transition to college is the beginning of unfamiliar experiences, both social and academic, which may beget personal anxiety and stress for the student. The stressors encountered in the period of adjustment may lead to adverse effects on mental and physical health, depending largely upon the coping mechanisms possessed by the individual. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the biological pathway activated as a result of stressors, leading to increased cortisol levels. The current research was undertaken to reveal whether a student’s self-reported stress score on the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Beck Depression Inventory II (BDI-II) would correlate with measured salivary cortisol. It was proposed that as a greater level of stress was identified, cortisol levels would increase and that specific points in the term would elicit great stress. First year students provided saliva samples and completed surveys in weeks two, five, eight, and ten of the academic term. There was no correlation found between STAI and BDI scores and the salivary cortisol in a sample population. This data was contrary to previous finding of research linking increased anxiety and depressive symptoms to raised cortisol levels. The results lead to an examination of the study method to ensure that both self-reporting and outside factors affecting participant coping mechanisms will be completely controlled for in future research.