Allostatic Load and Cognitive Functioning: A Preliminary Analysis

Publication Date



The topic of chronic stress is important within the field of psychology as stress is a major component of human functioning. A construct known as allostatic load (AL) provides a basis in further studying these effects through the use of biomarker data. AL researchers, notably McEwen (e.g., 1997, 1999, 2001), have suggested that long-term effects of chronic stress could lead to increasing cognitive problems over time, but few have assessed these effects empirically. Additionally, measurement of AL has been primarily measured through more summative approaches, but these methods could potentially overlook the multi-dimensional aspects of this construct. The purpose of this current study was twofold: (a) to investigate the effects that AL on cognitive functioning, and (b) to develop a statistical procedure that incorporates a more multi-dimensional framework. To accomplish the latter, an exploratory factor analytic technique was used containing 20 biomarker data from 1,152 participants, with seven factors being produced. Regression analyses were then used to analyze the effectiveness of both AL methods. In comparing the regression findings, the factor analytic method was shown to have an overall stronger predictive ability than the summative method in explaining cognitive performance, suggesting the former to be a more accurate measure of AL. It was also shown that certain biomarkers, specifically triglycerides, appear to have a remarkable impact on cognitive functioning. These findings could have important implications about the effectiveness of the AL factor analytic method in monitoring the deleterious effects of chronically elevated biomarkers and its impact on cognition.

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology (PhD)

First Advisor

Marion, Sarah D.

Document Type





Stress, Testing, Cognition




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