Study Suggests that Social Stress Ages Our Immune System

Study Suggests that Social Stress Ages Our Immune System
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According to a new study, social stress contributes a lot to aging your immune system!

This includes family problems, discrimination, as well as money and work problems.

Naturally, this is not good news since the immune system ages along with you as well so a stressful life speeds that process up, leaving you vulnerable to many diseases.

More precisely, immune aging can increase your risk of developing heart disease, cancer and other age-related health conditions.

Furthermore, it can also reduce the effectiveness of vaccines as per the study’s lead author Eric Klopack.

The postdoctoral scholar at the University of Southern California explained that “People with higher stress scores had older-seeming immune profiles, with lower percentages of fresh disease fighters and higher percentages of worn-out T-cells.”

Suzanne Segerstrom, a clinical psychologist who was not directly involved in the study, stated that “This paper adds to findings that psychological stress on one hand, and well-being and resources on the other hand, are associated with immunological aging.”

The professor of developmental, social and health psychology at the University of Kentucky has also studied the link between stress, self-regulation and immune function.

With that being said, the expert explained that “In one of our newer studies … older people with more psychological resources had ‘younger’ T cells.”

The research was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it featured 5,744 participants over the age of 50 as part of the Health and Retirement Study, a long-term study of health, economic, marital and family stressors in older US citizens.

Their blood biomarkers were analyzed and they were also asked about their social stress levels including “stressful life events, chronic stress, everyday discrimination and lifetime discrimination.”

Their answers were then compared with the levels of T-cells in their blood tests.

“It’s the first time detailed information about immune cells has been collected in a large national survey. We found older adults with low proportions of naive cells and high proportions of older T cells have a more aged immune system,” Klopack stated.

The link between the low number of T cells and stress remained strong even after adjusting the results for smoking, education, race, ethnicity, weight and more.

At the same time, when considering lack of exercise and a poor diet, some of the connections disappeared.

This seems to suggest, Klopack noted, that just how much our immune system ages during stressful situations is still mostly under our control.


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Katherine Baldwin

Katherine is just getting her start as a journalist. She attended a technical school while still in high school where she learned a variety of skills, from photography to nutrition. Her enthusiasm for both natural and human sciences is real so she particularly enjoys covering topics on medicine and the environment.

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