If stress disturbs many aspects of our life and our psyche, a news study published on June 13, 2022 in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences argues that there is also a strong link between an accelerated aging of the immune system and social anxiety.
This phenomenon of biological decline, called “immunosenescence”, generally occurs in the elderly, the researchers point out. “It makes the body more and more vulnerable, leading to an increased risk of developing autoimmune diseases, different forms of cancers or neurodegenerative diseases”, completes Neon.
Asked by Marie Claire in August 2016, the Dr Catherine Serfaty-Lacrosnierenutritionist at La Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital already explained that stress promotes inflammation, which leads to prolonged fatigue and greater susceptibility to infection.
Early immune decline in people with social anxiety
To carry out their study, researchers from the University of California asked participants about their level of social anxiety, before taking blood samples.
The results showed that “that adults over the age of 50 with high levels of social stress had older than normal immune profiles”.Scientists claim that this is due to a low percentage of T cells, essential in the immune response against viruses and cancers.
As a reminder, this type of stress is defined by Healthline like: “a type of anxiety disorder that causes extreme fear in social settings. People with this disorder find it difficult to talk to people, meet new people, and attend social gatherings whether professional or personal “.
Similarly, researchers have found that social stress can cause a surge of cytomegalovirus (CMV) and thus force the immune system to commit more resources to fighting the virus.
A close link between discrimination and immune aging
According to the researchers, immune aging would therefore be favored by stressful social events, but also by discrimination and the chronic stress they induce in those affected.
“Hispanic respondents had a lower percentage of T cells than white respondents who said they had never been discriminated against”, state the researchers.
And while the study scientists claim that “changing the way people deal with stress” and “improving lifestyle behaviors” can be beneficial (including encouraging the practice of meditation and better sleep habits), they say more work needs to be done to confirm their findings.
“Further research is needed to confirm whether stress reduction or lifestyle changes will lead to improvements in immune aging,” they conclude.
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This is how social anxiety weakens our immune system
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