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#Allergy and Immunology
Worry increases risk for long-term health issues by prolonging the physiological stress response. In contrast, relaxation may ameliorate the psychological and physiological burden resulting from worry.
A new study published in Psychoneuroendocrinology examined the impact of experimentally induced worry and relaxation on cortisol, heart rate variability (HRV) and inflammation.
Here, 75 participants completed both a worry and relaxation induction (presented in a fixed order) while HRV was collected continuously. Three blood samples were taken—at baseline, after the worry inductionand after the relaxation induction—to measure IL-6, IFN-γ, TNF-α and serum cortisol.
The results revealed significant changes in IL-6, IFN-γ, HRV and cortisol, but not in TNF-α across conditions. HRV increased significantly from baseline to worry and then decreased following relaxation. IL-6 changed significantly between worry and relaxation and continued to increase following relaxation. Meanwhile, cortisol decreased significantly across conditions. In addition, several patterns of covariance between inflammation and HRV and/or cortisol emerged.
It was inferred that the findings offer novel insight into how worry influences the immune system and emphasize the utility of a multi-methods approach to understanding the impact of worry on physical health.
Source: Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2020 Sep 16;122:104870. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2020.104870.