Hormonal responses to psychological stress in men preparing for skydiving

Robert T. Chatterton*, Kirsten M. Vogelsong, Yu Cai Lu, Gerald A. Hudgens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

201 Scopus citations


The purpose of the study was to examine the relationship between the hormonal and psychological responses of young men about to engage in a potentially life-threatening event. Subjects were recruited to take their first skydiving jump. The scores on questionnaires designed to assess anxiety were not significantly increased at 0800 h on the morning before the jump by comparison with scores obtained from the same subjects 3-5 days previously. However, a psychological instrument for rating of events indicated significantly increased intensity, and sympathetic nervous system activity, as measured by the salivary amylase response, was increased over self- control values. Salivary cortisol and testosterone levels were significantly lower on the morning of the jump than self-control values and values in control subjects determined at the same time of day. However, plasma LH was not suppressed. The anxiety and stress measures as well as therating of events rose to high levels just before the jump. With the exception of testosterone, which remained low, serum cortisol, PRL, and GH all increased greatly subsequent to the rise in psychological measures, reached peak values before or shortly after landing, and declined significantly within the next hour. Anxiety and subjective stress scores declined to those of the self- control values within 15 min after landing, but the rating of events scale remained significantly elevated. In summary, reported anxiety associated with a purely psychological stressor was suppressed until within a few hours preceding the event, but was preceded by an increase in sympathetic nervous system activity and suppression of plasma cortisol and salivary testosterone levels. The event itself was associated with a reversal of the cortisol decline; other stress-associated hormones increased, but salivary testosterone remained low.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2503-2509
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 22 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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