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Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
Background: Black–White disparities in adolescent health are widespread and thought to be explained, in part, by exposure to chronic stress. Cortisol assayed from hair is increasingly recognized as a valid and reliable measure for chronic physiological stress, but the feasibility of collecting hair among large probability samples of diverse adolescents is unknown.
Purpose: The aim of the study was to investigate participation in hair collection for cortisol analyses in a probability sample of racially and socioeconomically diverse adolescents, including the extent to which sociodemographic factors and adverse exposures were associated with participation.
Methods: The study included a probability sample of 516 adolescents conducted in conjunction with a prospective cohort study on adolescent health. Data were collected over 1 week via in-home interviews, ecological momentary assessment, global positioning system methods, and in-home hair collection at the end of the week.
Results: Of the 516 eligible youth, 471 (91.3%) participated in the hair collection. Of the 45 youth who did not provide hair samples, 18 had insufficient hair, 25 refused, and 2 did not participate for unknown reasons. Multivariable logistic regression results indicated that non-Hispanic Black youth were less likely than their non-Hispanic White peers to participate due to insufficient hair or refusal (OR = 0.24, 95% CI [0 .09, 0.60]). Despite lower rates of participation, the proportion of Black youth in the participating sample was representative of the study area. No significant differences in participation were found by other sociodemographic characteristics or adverse exposures.
Conclusions: Hair collection for cortisol measurement is feasible among a probability sample of racially and socioeconomically diverse adolescents. Hair cortisol analyses may accelerate research progress to understand the biological and psychosocial bases of health disparities.