Outline and Evaluate Research Into the Relationship Between the Immune System and Stress-Related Illness.

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Outline and evaluate research into the relationship between the immune system and stress-related illness. (12 marks) Cohen et al. investigated a link between life stress and vulnerability to the common cold virus. 394 participants completed a questionnaire on the number of stressful events they experienced during the previous year. They rated their degree of stress (stress index). They were exposed to the common cold virus and 82% developed the virus. After a week the number of participants who had developed the cold was recorded. It was found that those with a higher stress index were had more of a chance of developing the cold. Therefore it is thought that life stress and negative emotions can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. A criticism with this study is that a cause and effect can’t be established because there was no direct manipulation of the independent variable i.e. the stress index. This was a questionnaire so demand characteristics were present meaning that they could have not been telling the truth (social desirability) or have forgotten. Also in this study there wasn’t a direct way of measuring immune function and is only an indirect study. Another criticism is that this study doesn’t tell us which stress index element is the most important it merely concludes that both life stress as well as negative emotions can effect the immune system. This however is valid in that it measured health outcomes showing a relationship between life stress and illness. Kiecolt-Glaser et al. investigated the effects of naturalistic stressors on measure of immunity. Measures of natural killer cells (NK) were taken from blood samples of 75 medical students 1 month before their finals (low stress) as well as during their exams (high stress). These students also completed a questionnaire on negative life events and social isolation. It was found that NK
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