Stress on the Immune System

973 Words4 Pages
‘Discuss the extent to which research suggests that stress may affect the immune system’ 12 marks Stress is defined in three ways – one is a response to or reaction to something in the environment. The second is as a stimulus or a stressor, for example a feature of the environment that produces a stress response. Finally, is a lack of fit between the perceived demands of the environment and the perceived ability to cope with those demands, this is shown by the transactional model. When stress occurs in the body, the long term effects are shown through the para-sympathetic branch which activates the pituitary gland and releases ACTH into the blood stream. ATCH causes the adrenal cortex to enlarge and release cortisol - this can then weaken the immune system. Therefore, if the body receives too much stress, it can result in serious illness. Gerra (2003) investigated the death of a spouse and how it affects the immune system. Individuals who had recently experienced an unexpected bereavement showed lower lymphocyte activity compared to matched non-bereaved controls. This difference was observed 40 days after the death and in some participants, still continued after six months. This supports the idea that stress may affect the immune system as they lymphocyte activity was significantly lower, meaning that the immune system has less defence, later resulting in illness. This study however is not completely reliable as it does not consider other factors to do with bereavement which can lower the immune system. These factors can include eating less, sleeping less, economic issues. Therefore, cannot be used singularly as each person will have a different experience and their body will work in different ways under these circumstances. On the other hand, Evans (1997) found that students who were asked to give a talk to other students (a very mild stressor) actually
Open Document