Cortisol levels rise immediately after awakening and peak approximately 30–45 min thereafter. Psychosocial functioning influences this cortisol awakening response (CAR), but there is considerable heterogeneity in the literature. The current study used p-curve and meta-analysis on 709 findings from 212 studies to test the evidential value and estimate effect sizes of four sets of findings: those associating worse psychosocial functioning with higher or lower cortisol increase relative to the waking period (CARi) and to the output of the waking period (AUCw). All four sets of findings demonstrated evidential value. Psychosocial predictors explained 1%-3.6% of variance in CARi and AUCw responses. Based on these effect sizes, cross-sectional studies assessing CAR would need a minimum sample size of 617–783 to detect true effects with 80% power. Depression was linked to higher AUCw and posttraumatic stress to lower AUCw, whereas inconclusive results were obtained for predictor-specific effects on CARi. Suggestions for future CAR research are discussed.
- HPA axis