Emotions & Our Immune Response

I really believe that our mind, our emotions, and our levels of stress can affect our ability to think clearly and creates the world in which we live in.

I recently read an article published by Maria Cohut and fact checked by Jasmin Collier on how our emotions affect our immune response.  There is new research that shows fresh evidence that suggests frequent exposure to negative emotions may have an important impact on the function of the immune system.  Other studies have shown that chronic exposure to stress, anxiety and negative moods can usually affect physical health to a large extent.

Researchers reported to Medical News Today that they have found that chronic stress has a negative impact on memory.  Those feelings of distress can also raise the risk of cardiovascular events, such as stroke.  Pennsylvania State University in State College recently conducted a study that has found negative moods may change the way that the immune response functions, and are associated with an increased risk of exacerbated inflammation.  Jennifer Graham-Engeland, an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University led the research that appeared in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity.

Data collected by the scientists for the study was a two-tiered approach.  Questionnaires asking participants to record their feelings over time and in the moment were taken.  These took place over a 2 week period that allowed the team to map out the participants’ emotional profiles.  They also assessed the immune response of participants by collecting blood samples and looking for markers of inflammation.

When the body reacts to infections or wounds, inflammation naturally occurs as part of the immune response.  High levels of inflammation are associated with poor health and many chronic conditions, such as arthritis.

Individuals experiencing negative moods several times per day for extended periods of time were noticed by Graham-England and team, and tended to have higher levels of inflammation biomarkers in their blood.  It was also noted that if they collected the blood samples soon after the participants had experienced a negative emotion such as sadness or anger, inflammation biomarkers were even more present in the blood.  Even experiencing positive moods for a short while before the collection, was associated with lower inflammation levels, but only true for the male participants.

Scientists believe their study adds crucial evidence regarding the impact of negative affect on health.  To confirm these findings they need to replicate them in further studies and hope this research will prompt investigators to include momentary measures of stress and affect in research, examining inflammation to replicate current findings and help to characterize the mechanisms underlying associations between affect and inflammation.

They are excited about the findings because affect is modifiable, and hope they will spur additional research to understand the connection between affect and inflammation that may promote novel psychosocial interventions that promote health broadly and help to break a cycle that can lead to chronic inflammation, disability and disease.

Dr Fredda Branyon