November 12, 2013
In small doses, even moderate doses, stress can be good for us. Stress can energize us for action and sharpen our focus. But prolonged stress can be disastrous to our long-term health.
In a new study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, researchers show that chronic stress impacts our bodies at the genetic level, putting our systems into a state of hyper-vigilance against a threat or trauma even when none exists. In fact, chronic stress triggers gene expression that results in excessive inflammation, which is associated with health problems like heart disease and diabetes. Dr. Steve Cole, a UCLA researcher and head of R&D at HopeLab, conducted the research in collaboration with other scientists.
“The findings show a significant up-regulation of pro-inflammatory genes as a consequence of stress,” Dr. Cole said. “And not just experimental stress but authentic environmental stressors humans experience in everyday life.”
The study is an important reminder that chronic stress is not just a psychological experience. It works its way into our bodies, affecting our genes, our blood, and ultimately our immunity.
Our work at HopeLab focuses on understanding these types of connections between psychological experiences and physical health to inform the design of products that help people deal with the adversity of everyday life. By promoting resilient behaviors, we hope to improve long-term health and well-being. Stay tuned for updates on our work!
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