Stress hormone levels in saliva after shogi competition are modified by stress coping strategies
Environ Health Prev Med
Stress hormone levels in saliva after shogi competition are modified by stress coping strategies
Masako Hasegawa-Ohira 0 1 2 3
Masahiro Toda 0 1 2 3
Kanehisa Morimoto 0 1 2 3
0 K. Morimoto (&) Graduate School of Sport and Exercise Science, Osaka University of Health and Sport Sciences , 1-1 Asashirodai, Kumatori-cho, Sennan-gun, Osaka 590-0496 , Japan
1 M. Toda Pharmacology, Graduate School of Dentistry, Osaka Dental University , 8-1 Kuzuha-haanazono-cho, Hirakata, Osaka 573-1121 , Japan
2 M. Hasegawa-Ohira Public Health, Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine , 2-2 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871 , Japan
3 K. Morimoto Twin Research Center, Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine , Osaka, Osaka , Japan
Objective Using shogi, a representative table game popular in Japan, to model a stress situation, we investigated the modulatory effects of player characteristics on changes in the levels of cortisol and testosterone in the saliva of the players. Methods Saliva samples were collected at the following time-points: (1) 30 min after awakening on the day of the shogi convention; (2) immediately before the game; (3) immediately after the game; (4) 30 min after the end of game; (5) 30 min after awakening the following morning. The study cohort comprised 90 healthy male university students who were members of a shogi club, who were subsequently classified into either the emotional strategy (Em) or cognitive strategy (Co) group based on their scores on a Lazarus-type stress coping inventory. Results Cortisol levels were significantly higher in the Em group than in the Co group the morning following the convention, and this difference was not affected by either outcome (victory or defeat) or perception (competitive or noncompetitive) of the match. A similar but non-significant trend was observed for testosterone levels. Conclusion Our findings suggest that the Em group had a greater capacity to manage the stress from a shogi convention than the Co group.
Cortisol; Testosterone; Human saliva; Japanese chess (shogi); Stress coping
Stress is a term in psychology and biology that was
primarily propounded in a biological context in the 1930s.
However, it has more recently become a commonplace of
popular parlance. It refers to the consequences of the
failure of an organism—either human or animal—to
respond appropriately to emotional or physical threats,
whether actual or imagined. The characteristics of a stress
reaction are unique because the effects of stress are highly
individual, with the reaction to different types of stress
differing based on individual characteristics and ability.
] argued that for a psychosocial situation to be
stressful, it must be appraised as such by an individual, and
that cognitive processes of appraisal are central to
determining whether a situation is potentially threatening,
constitutes a harm/loss or a challenge, or is benign. Thus,
coping with stress involves how we perceive a potentially
stressful situation as well as how we conduct ourselves in
and resolve that situation. Both personal and environmental
factors influence this primary appraisal, which
subsequently triggers the selection of coping processes.
Problem-focused coping is directed towards managing
the problem, while emotion-focused coping processes are
directed at managing negative emotions. Secondary
appraisal refers to the evaluation of resources available to
cope with the problem and may alter primary appraisal.
Therefore, primary appraisal also includes the perception
of how stressful a problem is; estimating the availability of
more than or less than adequate resources to cope with the
problem affects the appraisal of stress. Furthermore, coping
is flexible in that the individual generally examines the
efficacy of coping in a given situation; if the coping
mechanism does not have the desired effect, different
strategies will then be implemented [
Stress management encompasses techniques intended to
equip a person with effective coping mechanisms for
dealing with psychological stress, with stress defined as a
person’s physiological response to an internal or external
stimulus that triggers the fight-or-flight response. Stress
management is effective when a person uses strategies to
cope with or alter stressful situations.
Competition and stress
Numerous confrontational situations occur in nature.
Among these, competition involves two or more
individuals struggling to master/achieve the same goal and is
therefore associated with both winners and losers. The
results from previous research indicate that participation in
sports and gambling activities induces stress [
However, those studies did not investigate the interactions
between winners and losers, and how competitive stress
triggers physiological symptoms has not been resolved.
] reported that among individuals who
participated in a task entirely controlled by chance (coin tossing),
the winners were characterized by relatively higher
testosterone levels and more positive moods. In another
] subjects were awarded $100 prizes that depended on
a random lottery. Winners in those situations, who won
without expending any individual effort, did not show
greater subsequent increases in plasma testosterone levels
compared to losers. These experiments were conducted in a
casual manner and do not necessarily indicate that the
derived conclusion reflects a stress reaction.
Real competition, especially that related to sports, has
been well researched in psychoneurotic endocrinological
studies, although universal agreement on the number of
influencing factors has not been reached. For example, the
authors of one study reported that testosterone and cortisol
levels in blood samples of winning wrestlers increased
relative to those in the previous match as compared with
those of the losing wrestlers [
]. However, in another
study, these levels were found not to differ between
winners and losers [
]. The reason for this discrepancy may be
related to physical stress caused by participation in the
sporting events. In fact, those stress measurements may
have been affected by psychological stress induced by
Ultimately, the ability to cope with stress in a
competition is an integral part of performing to the best of one’s
abilities and depends on being able to entirely utilize
cognitive and behavioral coping skills to overcome that
Shogi (Japanese chess)
Shogi, Japanese chess, is a two-player board game closely
related to Western chess, chaturanga, and Chinese Xiangqi.
Shogi is the most popular of all chess variants native to
Japan. The earliest predecessor of the game, chaturanga,
originated in India in the sixth century A.D. and spread
from China to Japan, where it spawned a number of
variants. Researchers in Japan have recently postulated that
human thinking processes can be studied by observing
changes in the brain activity of players playing shogi [
Playing this game demands a combination of complicated
logical prediction to achieve the final goal (winning) and
intuition when experiencing a difficult phase of play.
In the study reported here, we studied subjects who
participated in shogi to exclude the effects of physical
stress from competitive environments and measured
testosterone and cortisol levels in saliva samples. The
competitiveness of shogi is partly derived from the
comparatively long period of play relative to other games/
sports, which suggested that it would be an effective
environment to investigate psychological stress. In
addition, to determine the intensity of the competition, we
reviewed the mechanisms in which competitive stress was
affected by strategies adopted by players during the
competitive aspects of each game to cope with the stress.
Materials and methods
The study cohort comprised 90 healthy male students who
were members of the shogi club of Osaka University and
participating in the Western Japan Convention hosted by
the Kansai Student Shogi Association. None of our subjects
smoked tobacco or were under any kind of medication.
Forty-one subjects [mean age ± standard error (SE)
21.3 ± 2.7 years] played shogi during the convention
(shogi group) and 49 (19.5 ± 2.0 years) watched the
games (control group). All students were informed of the
purpose and methods of the study, and informed consent
was obtained from all subjects prior to enrollment. The
study was approved by the ethics committee of the
Graduate School of Medicine at the University of Osaka.
Saliva samples were collected on the day of the shogi
convention using a 50-mL polypropylene conical tube
(Falcon Blue Max; Becton Dickinson, Franklin, NJ) at
the following time-points: (1) 30 min after awakening on
the day of the shogi convention, (2) immediately before the
games, (3) immediately after the games, (4) 30 min after
the end of game; a saliva sample was also collected (5)
30 min after awakening the next morning. The subjects
were requested to refrain from eating and drinking for at
least 2 h before sample collection [
]. The subjects were
also asked to drink normally (alcohol) and take their
medicine on the day of the shogi convention. The samples
were stored at -30 C until assayed. Salivary cortisol levels
were determined using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent
assay, and testosterone levels were measured by an enzyme
immunoassay as previously described [
We measured and estimated stress coping using a
Lazarus-type stress coping inventory (SCI) [
]. The SCI was
administered to the 41 subjects (shogi group), and the scores
were calculated using the Likert method in the form of 0–2
points on a 64-item questionnaire rating. We calculated
scores of cognitive strategy (Co) and emotional strategy
(Em) and subsequently rated subjects with Co [ Em scores
as Co-types and those with Em [ Co scores as Em-types.
Co-types relied on problem-focused coping and were more
likely to accept a challenge and be active in a stressful
situation. Em-types relied on emotion-focused coping; this
group comprised individuals who could not relieve their
stress and were more likely to experience negative feelings to
achieve relief in stressful situations . We also asked the
subjects to report their game outcome (victory or defeat) and
perception of the game situation (competitive or
noncompetitive situation) after the game.
Student’s t test was used to compare the mean difference
in each variable between the two groups at each point in
the schedule. Analysis of variance with repeated measures
was performed to examine temporal differences, and
Bonferroni’s test was used for multiple comparisons. An
alpha level of 5% was used in all the analyses. The
statistical program package SPSS ver. 15.0 (SPSS, Chicago,
IL) was used for the analysis. All values are expressed as
mean ± SE. Statistical significance was two-tailed and set
at p \ 0.05 for all analyses.
In samples collected from shogi competitors immediately
after playing the game, there were significant increases
in the levels of salivary testosterone (63.8 ± 21.7–
73.2 ± 20.9 pg/mL; p \ 0.01) and cortisol (0.446 ±
0.281–0.800 ± 0.354 lg/dL; p \ 0.05), although the
increased levels were not maintained in the samples taken
30 min later (testosterone and cortisol levels were 63.7 ±
17.2 pg/mL and 0.473 ± 0.251 lg/dL, respectively) [
There were no significant changes in the levels of cortisol
and testosterone in the control group.
We confirmed overall trends in cortisol and testosterone
levels before, during, and after game (Table 1). Both cortisol
and testosterone levels increased significantly immediately
after the game, but they had returned to pre-game levels by
30 min after the end of game. The saliva cortisol and
testosterone levels on the morning following the game were
similar to those on the morning of the game day. The samples
were then categorized into two subgroups, the Co and Em
groups, based on the strategy pattern of the Lazarus type SCI.
Cortisol levels increased significantly immediately after
the game compared with before the game in both the
Co and Em groups (Co ?62%, p \ 0.01; Em ?48%,
p \ 0.01). However, they returned to pre-game levels at
30 min after the end of game in both groups (Co -36%,
p \ 0.05; Em -47%, p \ 0.001). Analysis of samples
taken the morning following the game revealed that the
cortisol levels had returned to previous morning values in
the Co group but not in the Em group (Co vs. Em,
p \ 0.01). In both the Co and Em groups, testosterone
levels increased immediately after the game compared with
before the game, but by 30 min after the end of the game,
the testosterone levels became significantly lower in the
Em group than in the Co group (Co vs. Em, p \ 0.05). In
both groups, the testosterone levels in samples collected the
morning following the game were similar to those in the
samples taken the morning of the game.
An analysis of cortisol levels in the Co and Em groups,
stratified by winning/losing, i.e., on the outcome of the
game, was also performed (Table 2). For both winners and
losers, cortisol levels had increased significantly
immediately after the game compared with before the game and, at
30 min after the end of game, had returned to the pre-game
levels. In samples taken the following morning, cortisol
levels had decreased significantly in losers of the Co group
but not in losers of the Em group (Co vs. Em, p \ 0.05),
and no such a difference was seen for winners. Also in
samples taken the following morning, there was a
significant difference in cortisol levels between winners and
losers of the Co group (winners vs. losers, p \ 0.05).
Cortisol and testosterone levels in the Co and Em groups
stratified by competitive and noncompetitive subgroups were
also evaluated based on the questionnaire results (Figs. 1, 2).
In samples obtained following a competitive game, cortisol
levels 30 min after the end of game did not differ between the
Co and Em groups. However, cortisol levels in the samples
taken the following morning returned to previous morning
Values are given as the mean ± standard error (SE)
* p \ 0.05: difference between cognitive and emotional groups
a Different from the value upon wakening on the game day: p \ 0.05
b Different from the value immediately before the game : p \ 0.05
c Different from the value immediately after the game : p \ 0.05
Values are given as the mean ± SE
* p \ 0.05: difference between cognitive and emotional groups; § p \ 0.05: difference between winners and losers
a Difference from the value upon wakening on the game day: p \ 0.05
b Difference from the value immediately before the game : p \ 0.05
c Difference from the value immediately after the game : p \ 0.05
values in the Co group but not in the Em group (Co vs. Em,
p \ 0.05) (Fig. 1). In samples obtained following a
noncompetitive game, this difference was not observed.
In samples obtained following a competitive game,
testosterone levels 30 min after the end of game decreased
larger in the Em group to a greater extent than in the Co
group (Co vs. Em, p \ 0.01) (Fig. 2). In contrast,
testosterone levels in samples taken following a noncompetitive
game did not show such a difference.
The primary finding of our study is that the levels of
cortisol in the saliva of the Em group on the morning
following the shogi competition were significantly higher
than those of the Co group at the same time-point. This
difference did not vary by outcome (victory vs. defeat) and
by competitive situation (competitive vs. noncompetitive.
Lazarus and Folkman [
] made a basic distinction
between the problem-focused and emotion-focused coping
]. These fundamental coping types are based
on the intention or function of the coping efforts [
Some types (such as subjects in the Em group) adjust to
emotion and distress, while others (such as subjects in the
Co group) cope with the problem caused by the distress.
Based on results from a survey of 967 care attendants,
] reported that the Em group showed
significantly lower psychosomatic health performance, such as
GHQ-28 score [
], than the Co group; that is, the Em
Fig. 2 Mean ± SE of testosterone levels (pg/mL) during shogi
convention between competitive (n = 26) and noncompetitive groups
(n = 15) for cognitive (filled circles) (competitive, n = 16;
noncompetitive, n = 7) and emotional (open circles) (competitive, n = 10;
noncompetitive, n = 8) groups. *Difference from the value upon
wakening on the game day, p \ 0.05; **difference from the value
upon wakening on the game day, p \ 0.01; ££difference between
cognitive and emotional groups, p \ 0.01
group is more likely to feel stress and suffer from persistent
A cortisol response appeared among both winners and
losers in both the competitive and noncompetitive
situations. This finding is consistent with the results of a
previous study showing that there were no differences in
cortisol levels in blood samples collected from the winners
and losers taken before and after a match involving male
judo wrestlers [
]. Other studies on judo matches [
wrestling competitions , basketball games [
shogi competition [
] also found no significant differences
in cortisol responses. Suay et al. [
] researched serum
cortisol levels in 26 judo fighters involved in competitions
and showed that those subjects who perceived themselves
as capable of winning, but ended up losing, showed the
greater increase in cortisol levels, relative to
precompetition levels. Furthermore, among the losers, cortisol
levels after the competition were correlated positively with
their self-efficacy to win. Another study showed that
elevated cortisol response is associated with negative mood
just after the competition [
The second major finding of our study is that
testosterone responses were different from cortisol responses in
terms of their association with stress-coping strategies. In
the competitive game, testosterone levels that increased
during shogi competition declined more in the Em group
than in the Co group 30 min after the end of game. In one
study, male voters who supported a presidential winner had
stable testosterone levels, whereas in those who supported
a loser, testosterone levels dropped 40 min after the news
of election outcome [
]. This study suggests that
motivation is a strong driver of testosterone levels. Therefore,
within the framework of our study, we assume that the
post-game motivation decreased more in the Em group
than in the Co group.
There are several limitations to our study. This results of
this study may depend on other confounding factors, such as
the length of each shogi competition, how experienced the
subjects are, their expectations of winning, self-efficacy,
among others. Additionally, age has not yet been studied, and
gender has only begun to be considered in recent years.
In conclusion, saliva stress hormone levels after a shogi
competition may be modified by the strategy adopted to
cope with stress. Our findings suggest that people adopting
an emotional strategy have a greater tendency to sustain the
stress of shogi competition than those with adopting a
Acknowledgments The authors would like to thank Dr. Hiroyasu
Iso for valuable comments that aided the preparation of this paper.
We also appreciate the contribution and participation of the subjects
of this study.
1. Lazarus RS . Psychological stress and the coping process . New York: McGraw-Hill ; 1966 .
2. Aldwin C . Stress, coping, and development: an integrative perspective . 2nd ed. New York: The Guilford Press; 2007 .
3. Chatterton RT Jr, Vogelsong KM , Lu YC , Hudgens GA . Hormonal responses to psychological stress in men preparing for skydiving . J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 1997 ; 82 : 2503 - 9 .
4. Meyer G , Hauffa BP , Schedlowski M , Pawlak C , Stadler MA , Exton MS . Casino gambling increases heart rate and salivary cortisol in regular gamblers . Biol Psychiatry . 2000 ; 48 : 948 - 53 .
5. McCaul KD , Gladue BA , Joppa M. Winning , losing, mood, and testosterone. Horm Behav . 1992 ; 26 : 486 - 504 .
6. Mazur A , Lamb TA . Testosterone, status and mood in human males . Horm Behav . 1980 ; 14 : 236 - 46 .
7. Passelergue P , Lac G . Saliva cortisol, testosterone and T/C ratio variations during a wrestling competition and during the postcompetition recovery period . Int J Sports Med . 1999 ; 20 : 109 - 13 .
8. Elias M. Serum cortisol, testosterone, and testosterone-binding globulin responses to competitive fighting in human males . Aggress Behav . 1981 ; 7 : 215 - 24 .
9. Gould D , Guinan D , Greenleaf C , Medbery R , Peterson K. Factors affecting Olympic performance: perceptions of athletes and coaches from more and less successful teams . Sport Psychol . 1999 ; 13 : 371 - 94 .
10. Dugdale JR , Eklund RC , Gordon S. Expected and unexpected stressors in major international competition: appraisal, coping, and performance . Sport Psychol . 2002 ; 16 : 20 - 33 .
11. Ogata K , Honda N. Study of change in brain activity due to blood flow while playing Shogi (Japanese chess) . Electromyogr Clin Neurophysiol . 2010 ; 50 : 137 - 48 .
12. Toda M , Morimoto K , Nagasawa S , Kitamura K. Effect of snack eating on sensitive salivary stress markers cortisol and chromogranin A . Environ Health Prev Med . 2004 ; 9 : 27 - 9 .
13. Granger DA , Schwartz EB , Booth A , Arentz M. Salivary testosterone determination in studies of child health and development . Horm Behav . 1999 ; 35 : 18 - 27 .
14. Granger DA , Shirtcliff EA , Booth A , Kivlighan KT , Schwartz EB . The ''trouble'' with salivary testosterone . Psychoneuroendocrinology . 2004 ; 29 : 1229 - 40 .
15. Shimada M , Takahashi K , Ohkawa T , Sagawa M , Higurashi M. Determination of salivary cortisol by ELISA and its application to the assessment of the circadian rhythm in children . Horm Res . 1995 ; 44 : 213 - 7 .
16. Lazarus RS , Folkman S . Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer; 1984 .
17. Lazarus RS . Stress and emotion . New York: Springer; 1999 .
18. Folkman S , Lazarus RS . An analysis of coping in a middle-aged community sample . J Health Soc Behav . 1980 ; 21 : 219 - 39 .
19. Hasegawa M , Toda M , Morimoto K. Changes in salivary physiological stress markers associated with winning and losing . Biomed Res . 2008 ; 29 : 43 - 6 .
20. Hardy L , Jones G , Gould D. Understanding psychological preparation in sport: theory and research . Chichester: Wiley; 1996 .
21. Compas BE , Banez GA , Malcarne V , Worsham N. Perceived control and coping with stress: a developmental perspective . J Soc Issues . 1991 ; 47 : 23 - 34 .
22. Ashitomi I. Examination of physical and psychological health conditions and the influence factors of home helpers (in Japanese) . J UOE . 2005 ; 27 : 325 - 38 .
23. Goldberg DP . Manual of the General Health Questionnaire . Windsor: NFER Publ; 1978 .
24. Salvador A , Simon V , Suay F , Llorens L. Testosterone and cortisol responses to competitive fighting in human males: a pilot study . Aggress Behav . 1987 ; 13 : 9 - 13 .
25. Salvador A , Suay F , Canto´n E. Efectos del resultado de una competicio´ n y de la categor´ıa deportiva sobre los cambios en la testosterona y el cortisol se´ricos (in Spanish) . In: Actas del II congreso nacional del colegio oficial de psico´logos . 1990 . pp 49 - 54 .
26. Serrano MA , Salvador A , Gonza´ lez -Bono E , Sanch´ıs C , Suay F. Hormonal responses to competition (in Spanish) . Psicothema . 2000 ; 12 : 440 - 4 .
27. Filaire E , Maso F , Sagnol M , Ferrand C , Lac G. Anxiety, hormonal responses, and coping during a judo competition . Aggress Behav . 2001 ; 27 : 55 - 63 .
28. Gonza´ lez-Bono E , Salvador A , Serrano MA , Ricarte J . Testosterone, cortisol and mood in sports team competition . Horm Behav . 1999 ; 35 : 55 - 62 .
29. Suay F , Salvador A , Gonza´ lez -Bono E , Sanchis C , Mart´ınez M, Mart´ınez- Sanchis S , et al. Effects of competition and its outcome on serum testosterone, cortisol and prolactin . Psychoneuroendocrinology . 1999 ; 24 : 551 - 66 .
30. Steven JS , Jacinta CB , Ekjyot KS , Cynthia MK , Kevin SL . Dominance, politics, and physiology: voters' testosterone changes on the night of the 2008 United States presidental election . PLos ONE . 2009 ; 4 : e7543 .