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Steady Dose of Stress Stresses Immune System

Chronic anxiety can lead to breakdown of function, study finds

MONDAY, July 5, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- While short spurts of stress can boost the immune system, lengthy doses lead to a breakdown of immune function, says a study in the July issue of the Psychological Bulletin.

Canadian and American researchers analyzed the findings of 293 studies that included a total of 18,941 people. This review of previous research confirmed that stress does alter the immune system.

It also revealed a distinctive pattern. Short-term stress cranks up the immune system. This is an adaptive response that prepares the body to fight infection or injury. But chronic stress inflicts a great deal of wear and tear on the immune system, causing it to collapse.

The study also found the immune systems of older people and those who are already sick are more prone to stress-induced change.

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians offers advice on how to cope with stress.

SOURCE: American Psychological Association, news release, July 4, 2004
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