Adolescents can experience heightened stress due to biopsychosocial changes that occur during this developmental stage. The 'wear and tear' of the physiological systems responsible for managing our stress response can lead to dysregulation of these systems, known as allostatic load (AL). AL is commonly measured within adult populations, however, inconsistencies exist across measures used to quantify the effects of stress on health. The aim of this review was to identify variations in measures across AL studies, and to consider how specific measures may be more appropriate for use within adolescent populations.
Pubmed, PsycINFO, PsycARTICLES, Academic Search Complete, were searched in July 2020, using search terms 'allostatic load' and 'adolescence'. AL studies (1988-2020) with an adolescent population (age 10-24 years) were included. 354 records were screened by two reviewers and 41 full-text articles were assessed for eligibility.
25 studies were included in final synthesis. Biomarkers of AL ranged from 1 to 14. The most common index of AL consisted of 6 biomarkers; cortisol, epinephrine, norepinephrine, systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and body-mass index.
Defining measures of AL during adolescence may help to identify vulnerabilities specific to adolescents, which may shape their lifelong health trajectories.