According to a study from UCLA’s school of medicine, negative social interactions can lead to increased inflammation, which may in turn cause a host of illnesses from cancer to heart disease and high blood pressure.
According to this study, being upbeat and positive – and surrounding one’s self with people that do not represent competitive or toxic relationships – may be one way to avoid getting sick.
They took a group of 122 healthy young people, then monitored stressful events and compared them to the body’s production of two inflammation-causing proteins.
Relying on the age-old method of capturing emotions – the diary – scientists recorded the group’s competitive and frictional moments and compared them with the chemicals found in swabs from the inner cheek.
Those who had a negative few days preceding the swab had a higher proportion of the proteins responsible for conditions including high blood pressure, risk of heart disease, cancer and depression.
Pro-inflammatory proteins also occurred after participants were subjected to a stress-inducing numbers quiz and then asked to give a public speech.
The results – which may bring a whole new light to many a bad relationship – are thought to be grounded in evolutionary survival mechanisms.
While the modern link between stress and illness is well-documented, psychologist Nicholas Rohleder from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts, told Science News that inflammation fends off infections that may once have been the result of fight or flight encounters.
“Without the dangers humans once faced when it came to getting through each and every day, stress may lead to unchecked chronic inflammation,” he said.
“According to this research, it has been consistently documented that social relationships influence physical health, a link that may implicate systemic inflammation.
We examined whether daily social interactions predict levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and the soluble receptor for tumor necrosis factor-α (sTNFαRII) and their reactivity to a social stressor. One-hundred twenty-two healthy young adults completed daily diaries for 8 d that assessed positive, negative, and competitive social interactions. Participants then engaged in laboratory stress challenges, and IL-6 and sTNFαRII were collected at baseline and at 25- and 80-min poststressor, from oral mucosal transudate. Negative social interactions predicted elevated sTNFαRII at baseline, and IL-6 and sTNFαRII 25-min poststressor, as well as total output of sTNFαRII. Competitive social interactions predicted elevated baseline levels of IL-6 and sTNFαRII and total output of both cytokines. These findings suggest that daily social interactions that are negative and competitive are associated prospectively with heightened proinflammatory cytokine activity.”