The effect of receiving mobile text messages on salivary cortisol levels in physiology students at the University of the Free State
Venter, Francois Petrus
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Objective: Texting has become central to social life, especially among young adults. It has been shown that texting has an adverse effect on physiological functioning. This study investigated the effect of receiving mobile text messages on salivary cortisol levels in undergraduate Physiology students. Methods: This protocol was set as an experimental, crossover, quantitative study. Respondents (men age: M = 20.5, SD = 1.34; women age: M = 20.7, SD = 1.69) participated in the study over two consecutive study days, receiving the intervention (receiving mobile text messages) on one day and acting as their own control on the other day. Self-reported data and saliva samples were collected during the study to assess salivary cortisol levels. Anxiety, depression and stress levels as well as the respondents’ subjective experience of the study were determined. Text frequency (number of text messages received) and text emotions (words with a neutral, positive or negative connotation) were varied among respondents. Results: Salivary cortisol levels did not differ significantly between the intervention and control days. High anxiety levels were associated with increased salivary cortisol levels. No associations with salivary cortisol levels were documented in low to moderate anxiety levels, stress, depression or how respondents subjectively experienced the intervention. There was no significant difference between text frequency, text emotion and the change in cortisol levels on the intervention day. Conclusion: The results in this study indicate that receiving mobile text messages did not elicit a significant cortisol response in respondents.