Reductions in cortisol associated with primary care brief mindfulness program for veterans with PTSD

Dessa Bergen-Cico, Kyle Possemato, Wilfred Pigeon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Scopus citations


Objective: This study investigated the relationship between doseresponse to participation in a veterans PCbMP program and diurnal cortisol. Cortisol reflects HPA function and PTSD is associated with HPA dysregulation.

Research Design: Veterans with PTSD were identified in PC and randomly assigned to treatment as usual (TAU, n = 21) or participation in brief 4-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program (n = 19).

Background: Patients with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have significant medical morbidity, which may be mediated by hypothalamic pituitary axis (HPA) dysfunction and reflected in cortisol output. Many veterans with PTSD are hesitant to engage in traumafocused exposure treatments; therefore briefer, non-exposure-based treatments are needed; one such promising approach is an abbreviated Primary Care brief Mindfulness Program (PCbMP).

Subjects: Veterans (n = 40) (mean age, 48 ± 16 y; 90% men) with PTSD referred through their VA PC provider and randomly assigned to PCbMP or TAU.

Measure: As an objective indicator of HPA function, salivary diurnal cortisol was measured from samples collected across 2 consecutive days at baseline and follow-up.

Results: Analyses revealed that significant changes in cortisol were associated with PCbMP treatment engagement and dosing (number of mindfulness program sessions completed). Veterans completing 4 mindfulness-based meditation sessions significantly reduced their cortisol awakening response (P≤0.05); and had significant changes in cortisol area under the curve increase compared with TAU participants (P≤0.05). Results indicate that PCbMP has a beneficial physiological impact on veterans with PTSD with a minimum of 4 weeks of practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S25-S31
JournalMedical Care
StatePublished - Dec 10 2014


  • Cortisol
  • Mindfulness
  • PTSD
  • Primary Care
  • Veterans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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