Negative and Competitive Interpersonal Stressors Linked to High Proinflammatory Cytokine Responses

psychological stress

In a recent PNAS study, Jessica Chiang and colleagues from the Department of Psychology, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, investigated the potential importance of negative, competitive and positive daily interactions on inflammatory activity.

The authors of this study demonstrate that negative social interactions significantly predicted higher baseline levels of sTNFaRII and IL-6 responses following a social stressor, and total output of sTNFaRII. The experience of competitive interactions was associated with higher IL-6 and sTNFaRII at baseline and with greater overall output of both IL-6 and sTNFaRII.

Social relationships such as social support, social integration and negative interaction are known to affect health outcomes through different mechanisms.

Negative and competitive social interactions represent the most frequent type of stressor experienced in people’s daily lives. Frequent repeated exposure to such stressors or chronic stress may contribute to low-grade systemic inflammation. This inflammation and particularly, increases in proinflammatory cytokines interleukin (IL)-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha have been linked to cardiovascular diseases, depression, diabetes and some cancers.

In the PNAS study the authors discuss the possible mechanisms involved and the long-term health consequences of these findings, which suggest that everyday social interactions marked by negativity or competition are predictive of inflammatory activity.

According to the authors the impact of any single such interaction may be minor, cumulatively, however, they may have a sustained effect on inflammatory processes and therefore may have implications for mental and physical health outcomes related to inflammation.

SOURCE:  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 2012, 109:1878. Epub 2012 Jan 23
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