Chronic Psychological Stress

The purpose of this study was to see if chronic stress impairs the immune system's ability to respond to hormonal signals that end inflammation. Fifty healthy adults were studied; half were cancer patients' parents and half were healthy children's parents. Cancer patients' parents reported more psychological distress than healthy children's parents. They also had flatter diurnal slopes of cortisol secretion, owing to lower output in the morning. Chronic stress was also found to impair the immune system's response to anti-inflammatory signals: the ability of a synthetic glucocorticoid hormone to suppress in vitro production of the pro-inflammatory cytokine interleukin-6 was reduced in cancer patients' parents. The findings point to a novel mechanism by which chronic stress may influence the course of inflammatory disease.

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