An individual’s emotional response to taxing situations appears to be linked to how stress affects the body.
“People who reported high levels of anger and anxiety after performing a laboratory-based stress task showed greater increases in a marker of inflammation, than those who remained relatively calm,” said Judith Carroll, Ph.D, who conducted the study at the University of Pittsburgh.
“This could help explain why some people with high levels of stress experience chronic health problems,” she added.
As a part of the study, investigators asked healthy middle-aged individuals to complete a speech in the laboratory in front of video camera and a panel of judges.
During the speech, they monitored the physical responses to the task and then afterward asked them about the emotions that they had experienced.
“Most people show increases in heart rate and blood pressure when they complete a stressful task,” explained Carroll, “but some also show increases in a circulating marker of inflammation known as interleukin-6.
“Our study shows that the people who have the biggest increases in this marker are the ones who show the greatest emotional responses to the task.”
“Our results raise the possibility that individuals who become angry or anxious when confronting relatively minor challenges in their lives are prone to increases in inflammation,” said lead author Anna Marsland, Ph.D.
“Over time, this may render these emotionally-reactive individuals more vulnerable to inflammatory diseases, such as cardiovascular disease,” she said.
The research, funded by the National Institute of Nursing Research, is part of a burgeoning field, known as psychoneuroimmunology, which investigates the interactions between psychological processes and health.
The research is published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.