The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)


How positive and negative social experiences vary with cortisol concentration in women of color scientists

MICHELLE A. RODRIGUES1,2, MARIEL GALVAN2, DENISE HERRERA2, BRYANA RIVERA2, RACHEL NEUBAUER2, FATIMATA SOUMARE2, IFEOLUWA ATUNNISE2, RUBY MENDENHALL3,4, ELIZABETH A.L. STINE-MORROW1,5 and KATHRYN B.H. CLANCY1,2.

1Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 2Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 3Department of Sociology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 4Carle Illinois School of Medicine, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, 5Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

April 16, 2020 39, Platinum Ballroom Add to calendar

Social support is embodied through stress pathways, and these mechanisms impact health and shape human evolutionary history. However, negative social experiences may also be embodied through these pathways. Here, we examined how daily social support and negative workplace interactions varied with daily cortisol concentration in women of color scientists, a population that likely experiences the intersection of gender and racial discrimination. Participants collected daily urine samples over one menstrual cycle, and we assayed samples for cortisol concentration via enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays. Preliminary analysis of mean daily negative workplace interactions over a month indicate that they significantly correlate with experiences of racial microaggressions (r=0.659, N=10, p=0.038). In preliminary analyses of daily variation in social support, negative interactions, sleep, and symptoms of somatic stress in a subset of participants (N=10), cortisol concentrations were weakly positively correlated with talking to family (r=0.150, N=236, p=0.022), weakly negatively correlated with negative workplace interactions (r=-0.146, N=236, p=0.025), and positively correlated with social media use (r=0.284, N=236, p<0.001). In a general linear mixed model, symptoms of somatic stress (F1,228=4.166, p=0.042) and social media use (F1,228=3.195, p=0.049) were significantly associated with cortisol concentrations. Our preliminary findings suggest negative workplace experiences may be a proxy for experiences of discrimination, but social media use has the largest association with daily cortisol concentrations. We will present analyses from the full dataset (N=20 women of color scientists) to address how the confluence of supportive interactions and negative interactions impact cortisol concentration, and how these factors may impact health over the lifespan.

Research was funded by a Beckman Postdoctoral Fellowship, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists Professional Development Fund, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.