- Researchers looked at how different kinds of stress can affect the immune system.
- Stress decreases the ability of the immune system strength to fight infections and diseases.
- The study shows that interventions to reduce stress are needed to improve immune responses.
A new study has found that stress from various sources weakened the cells of the immune system and fast-tracked their ageing.
The study published in the National Academy of Sciencesassessed the association between social stress and immune cell health in older adults in the United States.
The researchers enrolled 5 744 adults above the age of 50. The participants completed a questionnaire that assessed the social stress they experienced, including stressful life events, chronic stress, everyday discrimination and lifetime discrimination.
The blood samples of the participants were taken and tested and blood cells were counted and classified.
Ageing of the immune system
The study found that exposure to social stress was associated with immune system cells ageing at a faster rate. Furthermore, life trauma and chronic stress were associated with a lower percentage of T cells. T-cells help protect the body from infection and may help fight cancer. Weaker T-cells translate to weakened response to acute infections such as Covid-19, increased risk of pneumonia, reduced efficacy of vaccines, and organ system ageing.
The researchers say that the study results could explain disparities in age-related health, including the unequal impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and help identify possible solutions.
"These results raise the possibility that interventions such as cytomegalovirus vaccination and senolytic therapies might potentially help reduce social disparities in T cell immunologic ageing. Interventions aimed at reducing stress or increasing resilience may be needed to address these inequalities", the study concluded.