Low moods affect more than your mental health, scientists discover

Low moods affect more than just your mental health: Feeling anxious, angry or depressed increases inflammation in the body

  • Inflammation has been linked to everything from asthma to cancer
  • Study shows link between inflammation markers in the blood and negative mood
  • Scientists hope it will ‘break the cycle’ of ‘inflammation and disease’ 
  • e-mail



Low moods affect more than just our mental health, research suggests.

Negative emotions such as anxiety, anger and depression increase markers of inflammation in our blood.

The researchers hope this will lead to new mental health treatments that ‘break the cycle’ of ‘inflammation, disability and disease’. 

Low moods like depression can cause inflammation markers to rise in the body (stock)

The research was carried out by Pennsylvania State University and led by biobehavioural health researcher Dr Jennifer Graham-Engeland.

Inflammation has been linked to everything from asthma and arthritis to heart disease and even cancer. But it’s role in mental health is less clear.

Mental health is one of the ‘main causes of the overall disease burden worldwide’, with one in six people in the UK experiencing a problem like depression or anxiety in the past week, according to the Mental Health Foundation.

In the US, around one in five adults experience mental illness in any given year, National Alliance on Mental Illness statistics show.

  • How BLUEBERRIES can lower the risk of tooth decay: Eating… ‘Bio-scaffold’ that could speed by the healing of everything… Fears of a new Ebola-style killer virus as scientists… Does marijuana make people violent? Washington state’s…

Share this article


Anxiety is a normal part of life that affects different people in different ways at different times.

Whereas stress can come and go, anxiety often persists and does not always have an obvious cause.

Along with depression, anxiety is among the most common mental-health condition in the UK, affecting 8.2million people in 2013 alone. 

Around 40million adults suffer from the condition in the US every year. 

Anxiety can make a person imagine things in their life are worse than they are or that they are going mad.

Although it evolved as part of the ‘fight or flight’ mechanism in our caveman days to avoid danger, anxiety can be inappropriately activated in everyday life when stress builds up.

It can have a clear cause, such as moving house or having surgery. However, sometimes little life events build up until a person is unable to cope, with anxiety then taking them by surprise.

Physical symptoms can include:

  • Increased heart rate and muscle tension
  • Hyperventilation and dizziness
  • Nausea
  • A tight band across the chest
  • Tension headaches
  • Hot flushes
  • Sweating 
  • ‘Jelly legs’
  • Shaking
  • Feeling like you are choking 
  • Tingling in the hands and feet

Some psychological symptoms are:

  • Thinking you are going mad or losing control
  • Thinking you may die or get ill
  • Feeling people are staring at you
  • Feeling detached from others or on edge

Treatment often involves counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy. 

Activates like yoga, exercise, reading and socialising can help to manage anxiety. 

But past studies investigating the link between mental health and inflammation have asked participants to recall how they felt several weeks or months ago. The researchers therefore felt it was important to measure the association in real time.

‘Many nuances with regard to how affect and inflammation are related remain unexplored,’ Dr Graham-Engeland said.

‘To our knowledge, no one has examined the degree to which assessment methods or timing modify the association between affect and inflammation.’  

Some 220 adults – taken from the Effects of Stress on Cognitive Ageing, Physiology, and Emotion study – completed a questionnaire that assessed their mental health five times a day over two weeks.

Prompted by alerts on their phones, each of the participants would rate the extent to which they felt positive emotions – such as happiness, pleasure, joy and enjoyment – as well as negative ones – like anxiety, anger, depression and frustration. 

Blood samples were taken at the end of the experiment to assess markers of inflammation, including the commonly-used C-reactive protein (CRP) and seven inflammatory immune cells.   

After adjusting for age, sex, BMI and health status, the results found no link between a person’s mood and their level of inflammation for the study as a whole.

But a link was found in the final week, which the researchers put down to it coinciding with the participants having to give blood samples.  

‘We hope this research will prompt investigators to include momentary measures of stress and affect in research examining inflammation, to replicate the current findings and help characterise the mechanisms underlying associations between affect and inflammation,’ Dr Graham-Engeland said. 

‘Because affect is modifiable, we are excited about these findings and hope they will spur additional research to understand the connection between affect and inflammation.

‘Which in turn may promote novel psychosocial interventions that promote health broadly, and help break a cycle that can lead to chronic inflammation, disability and disease.’ 

Source: Read Full Article