Stress & Illness: Kiecolt-Glaser et al

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  • Created by: izzy
  • Created on: 16-06-13 11:39

Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (1984)

Kiecolt-Glaser has been particularly interested in naturalistic life stressors and their impact on measures of immune function. In this study her group used 75 medical students preparing for final examinations. As an index of immune function they used natural killer (NK) cell activity, part of our natural immunity system.

Measures of NK cell activity were recorded from blood smaples taken one month before exams (low stress) and during the exam period (high stress). Participants also completed questionnaires on experience of negative life events and social isolation. Findings were that NK cell activity was significantly reduced in the high stress samples, compared to the low stress samples. In addition, the greatest reductions were in students reporting higher levels of social isolation.

Kiecolt-Glaser et al concluded that examination stress (a brief naturalistic stressor in Segerstom and Miller's approach) reduces immune function, making people potentially more vulnerable to illness and infections. The effects are more noticeable in students experiencing higher levels of isolation.

Evaluation

  • This study did not assess actual illness outcomes although it did have a direct measure of immune function. Although reductions in immune function should make people more vulnerable to illness, it might be that the significant reductions seen in this study are still too small to increase the chances of stress-related illness.
  • However Kiecolt-Glaser's group (Kiecolt-Glaser et al, 1995) have shown that small wounds…

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