Research: REID and colleagues, S

Listed in Issue 78

Abstract

REID and colleagues, School of Psychology, Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia 6150, Australia, investigated whether stress management techniques could reduce the incidence or severity of symptoms of colds and ‘flu in students undergoing college exams.

Background

Methodology

Subjects were 27 university students. They were assessed in the periods before and after their exams on the incidence of upper respiratory tract symptoms, levels of negative affect (low mood) and the secretion rate of secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA), an antibody found in mucosal linings (such as in the respiratory tract) of the body that often reflects the general immune status of the person. Assessments were made during 5 weeks prior to the start of treatment, during 4 weeks of treatment (participation in a stress management programme; SMP) and for 8 weeks after treatment. A further 25 students who did not participate in the stress management programme served as controls.

Results

Symptoms decreased in the SMP group, but not in control students, during and after the exam period. sIgA secretion increased significantly after individual sessions of relaxation, but resting levels of secretion did not increase over the period of the study as a whole. In both groups, mood improved after the examination period and was not affected by SMP treatment.

Conclusion

The number of days of illness due to colds and ‘flu were reduced by stress management. The effects were independent of low mood or sIgA secretion rate. The precise aspect of the treatment responsible for reducing symptoms remains unclear. However, the results indicate that psychological treatments can be useful for reducing symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections.

References

Reid MR et al. The effect of stress management on symptoms of upper respiratory tract infection, secretory immunoglobulin A, and mood in young adults. Journal of Psychosomatic Research 51 (6): 721-8. Dec 2001.

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