Evidence suggests a definitive relationship between stress, the immune system and disease (Deckers, 2010). Stress may contribute to an individual's susceptibility to acute diseases such as the common cold and other chronic conditions such as cancer and heart disease. According to Deckers (2010), "in addition to colds, stressors have been implicated in the onset of a variety of infections, such as hepatitis, upper respiratory infection, herpes, and mononucleosis" (p. 170).
Stress affects the nervous and other systems which can affect the immune response and make the individual more susceptible to opportunistic microorganisms by affecting cell types and their natural response to pathogens (Deckers, 2010). Stress also affects and encourages inappropriate behavior which may also affect the immune system. Excess of drinking, smoking, and sleep deficiency have an eventual effect on the nervous system as well (Deckers, 2010).
Research shows that although severe challenges raised individual's level of depression and other negative physical symptoms, social support and other resources mitigated the negative symptoms. Individuals who had other needs met, such as social and esteem needs, suffered far less from symptoms of stress (Deckers, 2010).
Deckers (2010) claims stress can be managed by making lemonade out of life's lemons. Although overly simplistic, individuals have a set of moderator variables - characteristics of the individual that modify the stress experienced by the situation and makes the individual more or less susceptible to stress. Traditional wisdom tells us that proper care that includes maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough good quality sleep, and maintaining a social support network will help keep us healthy. It certainly gives new meaning to the old wisdom that tells us - don't worry, be happy!
Deckers, L. (2010). Motivation: Biological, Psychological, and Environmental (3rd ed.). Boston: Pearson/Allyn & Bacon