Study: Common Cold Triggered By Chronic Stress

If you’re by now accustomed to a life run by stress, don’t imagine the only side effects are psychological. Living with chronic stress is not exactly manageable and at one point down the line, the body will just succumb. The trouble is many of us aren’t aware that chronic stress is in fact an issue, but as a new study points there’s more to it than we’d imagine. Apparently the annoying common cold can be triggered by chronic stress too.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published within its pages a research by scientists with the Carnegie Mellon University that points out there’s a link between the chronic stress’ side effects and the development of common cold.

Basically, as Sheldon Cohen, lead author of the research, explained the findings pin point there is a link between the psychological effects of chronic stress and the development of an inflammation that leads to the common cold. “Inflammation is partly regulated by the hormone cortisol and when cortisol is not allowed to serve this function, inflammation can get out of control”.

Chronic stress significantly impacts the level of cortisol in our body which makes us unable to regulate appropriately the way in which our body responds to the need of inflammatory response. As a result, with an unstable cortisol level, the tissue’s sensitivity to the hormone itself is reduced thus making immune cells insensitive and unable to control the inflammation.

Sheldon Cohen adds: “the symptoms of a cold are not caused directly by the virus, they’re caused by the inflammatory response to the infection” and when the stress levels are high the body can’t “produce enough inflammation to fight off the infection”.

In the end, being more susceptible to common cold, the health condition becomes ever more miserable to bear and even harder to eventually get rid of it. And as Sheldon Cohen explains, the psychological effects of chronic stress on the body can be linked to more than just the development of common cold: “inflammatory diseases, like asthma, autoimmune disease, cardiovascular disease, would most likely be affected by stress”.

Although this is just the first study to show the link between psychological effects and actual biological manifestations of stress, the truth remains that in medicine, doctors should really consider treatments that pertain to stress management too.

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Mara is a life coach and soon, she will be a psychotherapist. She has been involved in several wellness projects and is now here for you. She will give you hints on how to reach that healthy lifestyle you always wanted. Ask Mara a question and she might just answer in one of her articles. To contact Mara, e-mail her at

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