Biological testing during acute psychological stress: a hindrance or an opportunity?

Aaron Vage, Eamon McCarron, Paul K. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
48 Downloads (Pure)


All humans deal with acute psychological stress periodically. Some individuals are affected by needle phobia in which a heightened sense of arousal is precipitated by venepuncture. Acute psychological stress invokes a range of physiological changes including activation of the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axes. In this review article, we first examine the human response to acute stress. We then provide an overview of how psychological stress in a subject is likely to be a source of pre-analytical variability for certain measurands, and the major biochemical markers that have been studied in research aiming to quantify stress. As such, we highlight how stress can be a hindrance to the accurate interpretation of certain laboratory results(particularly cortisol, prolactin, metanephrines and growth hormone), and point out the role that biochemical analysis might play in future studies looking at the effects of stress on human behaviour.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11-17
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Biochemistry
Early online date24 Jan 2023
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


  • Catecholamine
  • Cortisol
  • Pre-analytical
  • Stress


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