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Individuals undergoing stressful life events or conditions are prone to experiencing adverse effects on their biological health. This is evident through biomarkers associated with the intricate interplay of the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, as revealed in a recent study conducted by UCL researchers.

Stressful experiences affect immune, nervous and endocrine systems interactions

The study published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity reveals that both major stressful experiences like bereavement and chronic challenges such as financial strain adversely affect the healthy interaction of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems. The disruption of these systems is associated with various mental and physical illnesses, including depression, cardiovascular disease, and schizophrenia.

When stress occurs, signals activate interactions between the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems, leading to physiological and behavioral changes. A recent study examined blood concentrations of four biomarkers (C-reactive protein, fibrinogen, cortisol, and IGF-1) in 4,934 participants aged 50 and above from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging. The biomarkers are associated with the innate immune response to inflammation and the physiology of the stress response.

Researchers employed latent profile analysis, a sophisticated statistical method, to categorize biomarker activity into three groups: low risk, moderate risk, and high risk. They investigated the impact of prior exposure to stressful circumstances on the likelihood of being in the high-risk group.

The results revealed a 61% increase in the probability of belonging to the high-risk group four years later for individuals who had experienced various stressful events such as caregiving, bereavement, or divorce in the past two years.

Financial stress can impact biological health

Lead study author Odessa S. Hamilton from UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care said that financial stress poses a significant threat to biological health, disrupting the harmonious interaction between the immune and neuroendocrine systems, ultimately leading to potential health issues. This finding highlights the importance of understanding the impact of chronic stress on overall well-being.

Hamilton adds that more research is recommended to solidify these conclusions, as financial stress has the potential to permeate various aspects of life, triggering social exclusion, family conflicts, and even issues like hunger or homelessness.