COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Researchers who have spent years studying the effects of stress on the body's immune system now believe they know enough to show that stress actually does weaken a person's health.
Dozens of studies have shown that stress can alter the levels of certain biochemical markers in the body -- key players in the human immune response -- but scientists weren't sure those changes actually led to poorer health.
Now, they seem convinced.
Reporting in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a team of researchers from five universities argue that stress can lessen a person's immune response and that change can make them more susceptible to infectious diseases.
They also say that increased stress may lessen the effectiveness of certain vaccines and can confound some studies of certain illnesses that affect the immune system, such as AIDS and autoimmune diseases.
"The evidence so far suggests that while the immune changes associated with psychological stress are generally small, they look like they're important enough to have biological consequences and increase health risks," explained Ronald Glaser, professor of medical microbiology and immunology at Ohio State University and lead author of the study.
The JAMA paper points to the important role that
known as cytokines play in regulating the immune
Contact: Ronald Glaser
Ohio State University