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Neural Plasticity
Volume 2016, Article ID 3136743, 12 pages
Research Article

Salivary Cortisol Levels and Depressive Symptomatology in Consumers and Nonconsumers of Self-Help Books: A Pilot Study

1Centre for Studies on Human Stress, Research Centre, Institut Universitaire en Santé Mentale de Montréal, Montreal, Canada H1N 3M5
2Department of Neuroscience, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada H3C 3J7
3Integrated Program in Neuroscience, McGill University, Montreal, Canada H3A 3R1
4Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, University of Montreal, Montreal, Canada H3T 1J4

Received 22 June 2015; Revised 26 August 2015; Accepted 29 September 2015

Academic Editor: Jordan Marrocco

Copyright © 2016 Catherine Raymond et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The self-help industry generates billions of dollars yearly in North America. Despite the popularity of this movement, there has been surprisingly little research assessing the characteristics of self-help books consumers, and whether this consumption is associated with physiological and/or psychological markers of stress. The goal of this pilot study was to perform the first psychoneuroendocrine analysis of consumers of self-help books in comparison to nonconsumers. We tested diurnal and reactive salivary cortisol levels, personality, and depressive symptoms in 32 consumers and nonconsumers of self-help books. In an explorative secondary analysis, we also split consumers of self-help books as a function of their preference for problem-focused versus growth-oriented self-help books. The results showed that while consumers of growth-oriented self-help books presented increased cortisol reactivity to a psychosocial stressor compared to other groups, consumers of problem-focused self-help books presented higher depressive symptomatology. The results of this pilot study show that consumers with preference for either problem-focused or growth-oriented self-help books present different physiological and psychological markers of stress when compared to nonconsumers of self-help books. This preliminary study underlines the need for additional research on this issue in order to determine the impact the self-help book industry may have on consumers’ stress.