It has long been known that stress increases a person’s risk for several psychiatric conditions, such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as numerous physical disease conditions including asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, certain cancers, and stroke. At the same time, it has been unclear exactly how these effects occur.
In a new article published in the leading psychoneuroimmunology journal, Brain, Behavior, and Immunity, Dr. George Slavich argues that components of the immune system involved in inflammation may represent a common mechanism linking stress with several different diseases. Dr. Slavich goes on to describe the importance of better understanding these links.
“All told, inflammation is involved in at least 8 of the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States today,” writes Dr. Slavich. “Understanding how inflammation promotes poor health, and how and when we can intervene to reduce inflammation-related disease risk, should thus be a top scientific and public priority.”
Several multi-level theories of inflammation and health have been recently proposed to shed light on how stress influences the immune system to promote poor health. Dr. Slavich writes that to realize the full potential of this work for improving human health, “we must continue to push the boundaries of scientific enquiry by conducting studies that are increasingly integrated, multi-level, and multidisciplinary, and that link inflammatory and related processes with important health outcomes.”
Dr. Slavich is an associate professor and Society in Science – Branco Weiss Fellow in the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, and a Research Scientist at the UCLA Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology, where he directs the Laboratory for Stress Assessment and Research.
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