Background. Loss events are the stressors most closely associated with the onset of depressive
illnesses. The acute cortisol response to loss has been little studied although it could be an important
mediator of the effects of environmental stress on psychological state.
Methods. The salivary cortisol response to an established negative mood induction procedure
involving music and an imagined bereavement was measured in 30 healthy volunteers.
Results. Considerable but transient mood lowering in response to the negative mood induction was
associated with a small increase in cortisol output over 30 min.
Conclusions. This procedure has some potential as a tool to investigate individual differences in the
neuroendocrine response to loss events, but this is limited. There remains a need for laboratory
models of relevant psychosocial stressors in mood disorders research.