Date of Award


Document Type

Union College Only

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Brian Cohen




cortisol, levels, anxiety, depression, stress


Depression and anxiety have increasingly become a problem on college campuses and may be linked to increases of cortisol levels in response to stress. The goal of this study was to determine if there is a positive correlation between academic stress and cortisol levels in the human body. High levels of this hormone, which is often triggered by stressful situations, is associated with many negative effects such as increased blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, and most important to my study, the onset of depression. Our hypothesis was that an increase in academic stress during the term would lead to increased cortisol levels that may correlate with increased depression and/or anxiety. Cortisol was measured in saliva samples from upper-class female students over the course of the winter term using an enzyme linked immunosorbant assay (ELISA). The subjects also completed the Beck Depression Inventory and the State/Trait Anxiety Inventory, which were then analyzed in conjunction with their cortisol levels. A weak correlation was observed between anxiety and cortisol levels. Overall, it is important to understand the biological and psychological effects of stress on the human body in order to help students who suffer from anxiety and depression brought on by academic stress.