Anticipation and the cortisol awakening response within a dynamic psychosocial work environment

Tom Campbell, Tony Westbury, Robert Davison, Geraint Florida-James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is a distinct element of the diurnal pattern of cortisol release, believed to be partly driven by the anticipation of the demands of the upcoming day. Although evidence suggests that the response may be associated with various ergonomic factors, the influence of temporal variation in anticipated workplace characteristics upon the CAR remains unclear. The current study examined the CAR on two work days of differing levels of anticipatory demand (high/low) and a single weekend day through repeated assessment of healthy employees (N=15). Participants provided saliva samples immediately upon awakening and thirty minutes thereafter on all assessment days. A paired t-test confirmed that the two work days differed significantly in terms of perceived acute demand and a repeated measures ANOVA revealed a significant main time effect, confirming a rise in salivary cortisol over the post-awakening period. This response differed according to the nature of assessment day, being greater on the “high” compared to the “low” demand day, or the weekend. These findings suggest the CAR is influenced by the perceived level of acute anticipatory workrelated demand of the assessment day, highlighting the importance of attending to the dynamics of the environment when employing real-world assessments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Stress Prevention and Wellbeing
Publication statusPublished - 13 Mar 2018


  • acute work demands
  • ambulatory assessment
  • cortisol awakening response
  • employee well-being
  • psychosocial stress


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