Meta-analytic insights into factors influencing the repeatability of hormone levels in agricultural, ecological, and medical fields Academic Article uri icon


  • Interest in individual variation in hormone concentrations is rapidly increasing, particularly with regard to the evolutionary and practical implications. A key aspect of studying individual variation in any labile trait is estimating the degree of within- versus among-individual variation, but at present, we do not have a broad consensus on the extent to which hormone levels are repeatable and what factors might influence repeatability. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a comprehensive meta-analysis of hormone levels that included 1,132 estimates of repeatability from 368 studies across three fields of study: agriculture, ecology, and medicine. We assessed the influence of sex, age class, sample type, hormone family, type of hormone measure, assay type, number of subjects, number of samples per subject, and sampling interval on repeatability estimates. Overall mean repeatability was 0.58, but estimates differed substantially among study disciplines, being lowest in ecology (0.34), moderate in agriculture (0.52), and relatively high in medicine (0.68). In addition, repeatability decreased slightly as sampling interval increased, and also tended to be higher for peak hormone levels than baseline levels. Overall, hormone levels are moderately repeatable, suggesting that they can potentially be useful indicators of individual variation. However, estimates of repeatability are quite variable among fields, so caution should be used when relying on single samples to assess individual variation.

publication date

  • 2019