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A prospective study of work stressors and the common cold

February 16, 2011 Comments off

A prospective study of work stressors and the common cold
Source: Occupational Medicine

We found that the reported experience of common cold symptoms in males was significantly associated with previously reporting high job demands, the lack of job control and inadequate social support.

The lack of any association in females may be partly explained by the small sample size. However, gender differences in reporting symptoms or exposure to stressors may also have contributed to this result as another study found that males were significantly more likely to ‘overrate’ common cold symptoms than females [3]. Therefore, any association between work-related stress and the common cold may be accentuated in males by their reaction to experiencing a cold and attenuated in females by their more stoical response. Additionally, the role of Korean males as the primary wage-earners may cause more stressful experiences at work, and studies in other countries [4,5] suggest that males may experience higher levels of work-related stressors. Thus, we cannot exclude the possibility that specific work stressors in males played a role in increasing their reported experience of common cold symptoms, although further study is needed to confirm this apparent gender difference in the association.

Our results are consistent with a previous study suggesting that workers with high job demands are at higher risk for the common cold [6]. The link between psychological stress and infectious diseases may be explained by alterations in both the immune system and health-related behaviour [7]. Exposure to stress stimulates the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and leads to changes in immunological reactions [7,8] and resistance to infection [9]. People under stress are more likely to engage in behaviours with a negative impact on health such as smoking, drinking alcohol excessively or eating inappropriately [2,7], and these may contribute to common cold susceptibility. Previous studies have suggested that work-related stress triggers modification of immune responses as well as producing unhealthy life habits [8,10]. In light of these considerations, we suggest that work-related stress is a potential risk factor for the common cold.

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