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High family stress can impact child's immune system

Date:
February 19, 2014
Source:
Expertsvar
Summary:
High family stress can lead to the child’s immune system being affected, a research group has shown. Our immune system has the task of protecting us against bacteria and viruses. Our bodies are also equipped to handle everyday stress -– that is, stress that lasts only briefly. On the other hand, a difficult, stressful situation or long-term increase in stress can negatively affect the immune system. This kind of long-term stress can develop when a close family member dies or when adults are caught in tough, unmanageable situations.

Children in highly-stressed families had a high level of cortisol, which is a biological marker of stress. This supports the idea that the children were stressed. The research study also points towards the fact that a high level of stress negatively affects the immune system-that is, it is not as resistant when the body is exposed to a high level of stress.
Credit: © Tatyana Gladskih / Fotolia

High family stress can lead to the child's immune system being affected, as a research group at the School of Health Sciences at Jönköping University and the Faculty of Health Sciences at Linköping University in Sweden shows in a study being published in the American periodical Journal of Immunology.

Our immune system has the task of protecting us against bacteria and viruses. Our bodies are also equipped to handle everyday stress-that is, stress that lasts only briefly. On the other hand, a difficult, stressful situation or long-term increase in stress can negatively affect the immune system. This kind of long-term stress can develop when a close family member dies or when adults are caught in tough, unmanageable situations.

The research study shows that children in highly-stressed families had a high level of cortisol, which is a biological marker of stress. This supports the idea that the children were stressed. The research study also points towards the fact that a high level of stress negatively affects the immune system-that is, it is not as resistant when the body is exposed to a high level of stress. Instead, the immune system reacts to substances in the body that should be left alone, which perhaps is linked to an autoimmune reaction.

The study included families with five-year-old children (derived from the ABIS [All Children in Southeast Sweden] study). The parents answered questions regarding stress and prospective difficulties that had impacted the family, such as divorce or unemployment. The answers led the researchers to identify a group of children who probably experienced high levels of stress in their families, and a group of children who presumably had grown up with normal stress levels.

The research group at the School of Health Sciences in Jönköping will work further on the project to understand more about how a high level of stress can affect the body. This time, the researchers will turn to young people in the 18-22 age group.

"These young people can themselves report negative experiences in their daily lives and also negative experiences during their childhood" says Maria Faresjö, professor at the School of Health Sciences, which will also lead the continued research project.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Expertsvar. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. Carlsson, A. Frostell, J. Ludvigsson, M. Faresjo. Psychological Stress in Children May Alter the Immune Response. The Journal of Immunology, 2014; 192 (5): 2071 DOI: 10.4049/jimmunol.1301713

Cite This Page:

Expertsvar. "High family stress can impact child's immune system." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 February 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219075209.htm>.
Expertsvar. (2014, February 19). High family stress can impact child's immune system. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 16, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219075209.htm
Expertsvar. "High family stress can impact child's immune system." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140219075209.htm (accessed September 16, 2014).

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