198 Mind Body Connection

Based on research by Cohen, Sheldon, Frank, E., Doyle, W. J., Skoner, D. P., Rabin, B. S., & Gwaltney Jr, J. M. (1998) by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Is it true that stress can really affect your susceptibility to the common cold?

Health psychologists conducted research to evaluate the impact of stress on developing the illness. They had 276 healthy adults complete a life stressor interview, psychological questionnaire, as well as provide blood and urine samples. Following this process they administered nasal drops with common cold viruses to each volunteer and monitored their developing the illness.

Results indicated that while severe stressful life events of less than one month’s duration were not associated, severe chronic stressors one month or longer were associated with a significant increase in risk of developing the common cold. The longer the chronic stressor continued, the greater the risk for colds. These chronic stressors included difficulties involving work or unemployment and relationship problems with marital/partner, family or friends. Chronic stressors did not occur due to money-possessions, housing, crime-legal, education, reproduction, or bereavement stressors. Healthy practices in diet, sleep, and exercise, reduced the effects of chronic stress to a slight degree.

To protect yourself from the common cold, be mindful of the stressors you are experiencing. Take time for your own mental and bodily needs. To reduce this stress, engage in healthy pleasurable activities.


Cohen, S., Frank, E., Doyle, W. J., Skoner, D. P., Rabin, B. S., & Gwaltney Jr, J. M. (1998). Types of stressors that increase susceptibility to the common cold in healthy adults. Health Psychology, 17(3), 214.

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