Outline and evaluate research into the relationship between the immune system and stress.

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Outline and Evaluate research into the relationship between the immune system and stress-related illness

There is much research to suggest that there is a relationship between the immune system and stress related illness, such as the natural experiment carried out by Kiecolt-Glaser et al in 1984.

Blood samples were taken from 75 volunteers who were first year medical students at Ohio State University College of Medicine. A baseline sample was taken one month before their final examinations and one tress sample was drawn on the first day of their final examinations. Participants also filled in a questionnaire that was designed to assess them for things unhappiness, lonesomeness and stressful life events. The blood samples were studied for levels of natural killer cells which were used as a measure of how effective their immune system, where the more natural killer cells showed a more efficient immune system.

The findings showed that the levels of natural killer cells in the stress blood samples were much lower than the levels in the baseline samples. This showed a decrease in efficiency of the immune system when the participants were under a lot of stress which naturally made them more susceptible and vulnerable to illness. In addition to this, from studying the questionnaires, it was seen that those who were experiencing stressful life situations had the lowest natural killer cell levels of all. The conclusion from the results were therefore that the stress of the exams suppressed the participants immune system and that if someone has a stressful life then they become more susceptible to the effects of stressors that occur occasionally.
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Kiecolt-Glaser’s experiment lacks population validity. This is due to the fact participants were not only from the same state in America but also a very specific age range too. This decreases the amount we can generalise the findings to the rest of the population. This is because Americans may have better immune systems than people in different countries, or because they were students, they could therefore naturally have experienced more stress recently or have more stressful lives due to the nature of university life. However, in order to try resolve this issue Kiecolt-Glazer carried out two more pieces ...

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