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Outline the relationship between stress and the immune system and consider whether research supports this relationship.

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Outline the relationship between stress and the immune system and consider whether research supports this relationship: "There are two main categories of stress: acute and chronic. Acute stressors include unpleasant films, understimulation/work underload, overstimulation/work overload, unexpected or uncontrollable noise, prestige or status loss, electric shock, uncontrollable situations, physical illness, surgery, threats to self-esteem, and traumatic experiences. Chronic stressors include sleep deprivation, daily "hassles", work overload or underload, role strains, or social isolation. There are, of course, many more things that can cause stress, but these are the stressors most commonly used in experimental research and most commonly seen in the general population" Elliott and Eisdorfer, (1982). The immune system protects the body from germ and virus organisms as well as other foreign bodies, known as antigens. The first line of defence is local barriers such as the skin, peritoneum, etc, and inflammation due to immunoglobulins (antibodies). If these fail to block or destroy the antigens, the cell-mediated response and the humoral immune response go to work. ...read more.


To do this they took a group of women who were caring for relatives suffering from senile dementia, a task that has been shown to be associated with chronic stress. 13 women, aged 47-81 years who were carers, were placed in the experimental group whilst an additional 13 were matched with the carers on the basis of age and income but not marital status as the control group. This method is known as a matched participants design. The participants were given a 'punch biopsy' (a 3.5mm cut) just below the elbow. In addition, their levels of cytokines, biochemical substances involved in regulating the body's immune system, were assessed. Patients were also given a 10-item perceived stress scale to how stressed they felt. The findings of this experiment were that the wound took on average 9 days (24%) longer to heal amongst the carers than the control group. It was also found that the levels of cytokines were lower in the carers than in the control group whilst on the perceived stress scale the carers indicated that they felt more stressed. ...read more.


Riley (1981) placed mice on a rotating turntable and found that within 5 hours this lead to a decrease in the number of lymphocytes. Some mice were implanted with cancer cells and after 3 days of 10 minutes of rotation per hour they were more likely to develop tumours the control mice who had experienced no stress. This shows that stress reduced immune activity was related to illness. However, there can sometimes be positive effects of stress. Cortisol is in fact thought to help lower a temperature and also reduce inflammation. Evans et al (1994) looked at the activity of a single antibody, sIgA, which coats the mucous surfaces of the mouth, lungs and stomach to prevent infection. Students were arranged to give talks to other students (mild but acute stress). These students showed an increase in the levels in sIgA but a decrease during the examination periods that went on for several weeks. Evans et al (1997) proposed that stress has two effects on the immune system: up-regulation for very short-term acute stress, and a down-regulation for chronic stress. Ross Osnowski TCCE ...read more.

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