The impact of stress on the dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) response in older population is understudied. This study investigated, in healthy older people, whether the DHEA and cortisol responses to the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) was related to performance on this task.
Both speech (rated by committee and self-rated) and arithmetic (number of mistakes) performance were assessed. Sixty-five participants (55-77 years old) were exposed to the TSST.
Increases in negative affect, state anxiety, and cortisol levels could be observed, but there were no significant changes in positive affect or DHEA levels. Interestingly, a larger DHEA response was related to better verbal performance after controlling for the cortisol’s reactivity. No relationships were found between hormonal responses and the arithmetic task performance.
Our results suggest that, in healthy older people, an increase in DHEA levels in response to acute psychosocial stress may help them to cope with this stressor by increasing verbal performance.