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Stress and Illness Essay - Psychology

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Outline and evaluate research into the relationship between the immune system and stress related illness (12 marks)
Taylor McAndrew

AO1
Cohen et al (1993) investigated the role of general life stress on vulnerability to the common cold virus. He found that the chance of developing a cold, i.e. failing to fight off the infection, was significantly correlated with stress index scores. Cohen et al. concluded that life stress and negative emotions reduce the effectiveness of our immune system, leaving participants less able to resist viral infection.

A02
Support for research into the relationship between the immune system and stress related illness came from studies such as Evans and Edgington (1991) who found that the probability of developing a cold was significantly correlated with negative events in the proceeding days.

Research findings from Cohen et al. and Kiecolt-Glaser et al. both demonstrated that life stress could reduce or impair immune function eventhough they used didfferent methods. This would indicate that stress does have a negative effect on the immune system.

However other research evidence indicates that stress does not always have a negative effect on the immune system. In a major meta-review by Segerstrom and Miller (2004), they concluded that acute short-lasting stressors lead to an unregulation of natural immunity which indicates that short-lasting stressors is beneficial to the immune function which does not support Cohen et al. and Kiecolt-Glasers research findings.

Cohen et als. research measured health outcomes, which shows a relationship between life stress and illness. However, this study does not tell us which part of the stress index is most important. This study also has ethical issues that need to be considered, such as participants needing to be in good health with no illness or infections prior the the study....

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