A new study has revealed that people who are stressed are much more likely to catch the common cold, Time Magazine reported.

The stress hormone cortisol – which is released during periods of anxiety – temporarily suppresses the immune system.  So when the body encounters viruses or bacteria, it has much lower inflammatory response.

However, the researchers found that those who are chronically stressed are constantly releasing cortisol, making the immune system less responsive to the hormone.  Instead of reducing inflammation, consistently high levels of cortisol actually increase the body’s inflammatory response.

Cold symptoms that stressed people experience – such as coughing and sneezing – are more a side-effect of inflammation rather than the direct result of a cold virus, the researchers said.

“Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well,” said Dr. Sheldon Cohen, a professor of psychology at Carnegie Melon and lead author of the study. “Knowing this is important for identifying which diseases may be influenced by stress and for preventing disease in chronically stressed people.”

The research was reported in the journal Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

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