Emotional Stress and Health

Bruce Bower, a contributor for Science News, has written a brief but comprehensive and detailed review about how emotional stress affects the health of individuals. In this case, the link between emotional stress and the health and wellbeing of man was supported by a series of research studies and experiments conducted by psychologists for the New England Journal of Medicine. The results from the studies revealed that extreme stages of, in technical terms, emotional, mental, or psychological stress lead to the manifestation of symptoms that are representative of colds.

Apparently, when human beings experience severe cases of emotional stress, their immune system weakens causing them to become vulnerable to the cold virus. (Bower, 1991) In order to establish the reliability and validity of the information linking emotional stress and the strength or weakness of the immune system, Psychologist Sheldon Cohen and two others conducted a survey to obtain factual and quantifiable data. The survey constituted the floating of questionnaires that contained inquiries related to psychological stress.

The respondents were composed of four hundred twenty adults of British descent displaying healthy conditions. In this particular survey, the respondents were asked to list down various stressful situations that they have encountered in the past year, including the intensity of negative emotions felt, the degrees of difficulties by which they were able to cope with stress, and their personality traits or characteristics. The results from the questionnaires were used to group the respondents into four groups depending on the level or intensity of stress that they experienced.

(Bower, 1991) The Psychologists administered nasal drops and saline drops with low doses of various respiratory viruses to selected volunteers and were observed thereafter in order to determine manifestations of colds symptoms. The results of the experiment revealed that majority of the three hundred ninety-four who participated in it contracted a viral infection while the remaining one hundred forty-eight volunteers contracted colds.

However, when the health conditions of the volunteers were assessed, the psychologists found out that those who received saline drops did not acquire colds, only viral infections, while the one hundred forty-eight volunteers who contracted colds were those administered with nasal drops. Overall, the results of the research study revealed that individuals who are or have experienced extreme stress are more vulnerable to the colds virus.

The level of vulnerability increases as the level of stress also increases. (Bower, 1991) The results of the research study indicate that stress and infection are related, as they pertain to the immunity of an individual. Although the Cohen and his associates acknowledged the fact that the results were inconclusive, they declared that the information obtained builds a strong basis for further research studies.

In addition, Cohen and his associates declared that the results from the research are solid enough to establish the idea that stress is a major factor that determines an individual’s level of vulnerability to respiratory viruses. (Bower, 1991) In reviewing the article, I would have to say that the information learned from it has inspired the idea that although stress as a conception is something intangible that does not constitute the physiological make-up of the human body, it greatly influences the conditions of one’s health.

Moreover, the article supports the idea that stress determines the strength or weakness of an individual’s immune system. According to information learned from the article, one’s immune system may also be affected by the intensity of stress that one experiences. If the level of stress increases, then the immune system weakens. Since the immune system of an individual is affected by stress, then one’s susceptibility to viruses, not only the respiratory viruses, increases.

Another idea that seems to have been inspired by the article is the importance of learning how to prevent or manage stress in order to maintain a desirable or favorable condition of health and wellbeing. The article seems to strongly suggest the need for stress reduction or management if one expects to develop a strong immune system that is significant for a healthy wellbeing.


Bower, B. (1991). Emotional Stress Linked to Common Cold. Science News, 140(0), 132. Retrieved March 12, 2009, from MAS Ultra – School Edition database.

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