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Patterns of Cortisol and Adrenaline Variation in Australian Aboriginal Communities of the Kimberley Region

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 July 2008

Lincoln H. Schmitt
Department of Anatomy and Human Biology, University of Western Australia, Nedlands
G. Ainsworth Harrison
Institute of Biological Anthropology, University of Oxford
Randolph M. Spargo
Health Department of Western Australia, Derby, Australia
Tessa Pollard
Institute of Biological Anthropology, University of Oxford
Giles Ungpakorn
Institute of Biological Anthropology, University of Oxford


Urinary cortisol and adrenaline excretion rates were measured in three Australian Aboriginal communities in the Kimberley region in the north-west of the country. The three communities, Derby, Kalumburu and Kupungarri, differ in size and remoteness and some lifestyle parameters. Cortisol excretion rate is associated with age and urine flow rate, but there is no association with smoking or the consumption of alcohol. All three communities show very high cortisol excretion rates compared to a sample of UK (Oxford) residents and there are also differences between the three communities. Adrenaline excretion rate also shows associations with age and urine flow rate, but not with smoking. Aboriginal people in the Kimberley region excrete adrenaline at a slightly higher rate than that found in Oxford, which itself is high by world standards. There are no marked differences between communities in their adrenaline excretion rates. Alcohol drinkers in Derby, where alcohol is freely available, have higher adrenaline output than non-drinkers.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995

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