Stress-Related Illness; The Immune System

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  • Most studies focus on acute stress and have found a decrease in immune cell functionin.
  • Other studies have found an increase. 
  • Psychologist found no decrease in overall immune system activity and higher lymphocyte counts in Apollo astronauts during the stress splashdown.
  • Other research focuses on the effects of chronic stressors; effect of unemployment among unemployed women in Sweden.... decreased lymphocyte response to antigens after nine months of unemployed women.
  • Short-Term Stressors: Examination Stress
  • Kiecolt-Glaser carried out natural experiment to investigate whether short-term stressors had an effect of immune system in medical system.
  • What Did They Do?
  • Blood samples were taken one month before and during the exam period. Immune system functioning was assessed by measuting NK cell activity in the blood samples. 
  • Participants also filled out a questionnaire to note other life-stressors they were experiencing
  • What Did They Find? 
  • NK cell activity significantly reduced in the second blood sample opposed to the sample taken previously.
  • Short-term stressors reduce immune system functioning... increasing vulnerability to illness.
  • Wound Healing
  • Exam-related immune changes have a dramatic effect on the rate that wounds heal at. 
  • 'punch biopsy' in the mouth of students either during summer holidays or three days before an exam.
  • The wounds given before the


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