Relaxation training and cortisol secretion in adult asthmatics

Joshua Smyth, Leighann Litcher, Adam Hurewitz, Arthur Stone

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Relaxation techniques can lead to symptom reduction and improved pulmonary functioning in asthmatics, although the mechanism is not clear. One possibility is by influencing cortisol secretion, as cortisol is implicated in inflammatory processes and relaxation has been shown to alter cortisol secretion in healthy individuals. This study explored the effect of relaxation training on cortisol levels and cortisol reactivity to stress in asthmatics. Twenty adult asthmatics participated for 21 days in their natural environment, and received relaxation training halfway through the study. Cortisol was assessed from saliva five times per day for three weeks. Relaxation training was successful, but did not lead to the hypothesized reduction in overall cortisol levels. Participants using corticosteroid medication showed increases in cortisol after relaxation, whereas those not using corticosteroids showed decreases in cortisol (p < .05). Relaxation altered the cortisol reactivity to stress (p = .007); before relaxation training cortisol levels increased after a stressor, whereas following relaxation training cortisol levels decreased after a stressor. This study suggests that relaxation training can influence cortisol secretion in asthmatics, but that these effects differ from those observed in healthy individuals and may be influenced by corticosteroid medication use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)217-227
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Health Psychology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2001

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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