Juvenile Children’s Salivary Aldosterone and Cortisone Decrease during Informal Math and Table-Tennis Competitions

Timothy S. McHale*, Peter B. Gray, Carolyn R. Hodges-Simeon, David T. Zava, Graham Albert, Ka chun Chan, Wai Chi Chee

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)



Among adults, aldosterone and cortisone increases are reported in response to physically taxing forms of competition, enabling individuals to rapidly adapt to variable sociocompetitive contexts. Yet, aldosterone and cortisone responses in juvenile children engaged in less strenuous forms of competition have not been investigated. Here, we sought to measure aldosterone and cortisone responses in children who participated in math and table-tennis competitions. We hypothesized that the responses would significantly vary with respect to the type of competition. 


Pre- and post-match salivary aldosterone and cortisone were measured in Hong Kongese children, aged 8–11 years, during (1) a mixed-sex, team-based, math competition (N = 45) and (2) a dyadic, table-tennis competition against peers (N = 22). 


In the math competition, aldosterone and cortisone levels decreased in boys and girls, while members on losing teams had greater match decreases in cortisone levels compared to individuals on winning teams. In the table-tennis competition, time of day led to significant diurnal differences in competitors’ pre-match aldosterone and cortisone concentrations. As a result, each sample was analyzed independently according to match time (8:30 AM and 11:00 AM). Aldosterone levels decreased among the competitors who participated in the 11:00 AM table-tennis matches. Cortisone levels decreased for the majority of competitors, but only significantly decreased in the 8:30 AM sample.


These findings highlight that juvenile competitors’ hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) are sensitive to less physically strenuous forms of competition. Further, the differences in the competitive environment likely stimulate the direction of aldosterone (RAAS) and cortisone (HPA) reactive change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413–435
Number of pages23
JournalAdaptive Human Behavior and Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date21 Jul 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Physiology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

User-Defined Keywords

  • Aldosterone
  • Competition
  • Cortisone
  • HPA axis
  • Life-history theory
  • Middle childhood


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