246686 High anxiety and altered immune function in college students

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Josephine Wilson, DDS, PhD , Substance Abuse Resources and Disability Issues Program, Boonshoft School of Medicine, Wright State University, Dayton, OH
Casey Browder, BS , Psychology Department, Wittenberg University, Springfield, OH
Previous research has examined the influence of stress on altered immune responses (Gruzelier, Smith, Nagy, & Henderson, 2001; Arranz, Guayerbas, & De la Fuente, 2007). The aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between anxiety and immune function of college students. Anxiety levels for 92 students were measured by the Beck Anxiety Inventory, and immune function by a general health survey. Participants were then grouped as anxious or non-anxious according to their BAI score, those who were anxious having a BAI score of 16 or greater. Anxious students were found to have significantly higher frequencies of the following health measures: campus health center visits, allergies, digestive distress, earache, eye infections, food poisoning, rashes, and fever. Non-anxious students tend to get sick “seasonally,” while anxious students tend to get sick during exam periods or in times of stress, chi square = 15.00, p = .02, but there was no difference in vitamin consumption between the two groups. A factor analysis of the measured variables resulted in seven factors with an eigenvalue > 1.0 and two factors associated with high BAI scores. The first factor was associated with high anxiety, excellent eating and exercise habits, and high incidences of allergies, runny nose, and sore throat. The second factor was associated with high anxiety, high reoccurrences of illness, and high incidences of earaches, headaches, and fever. As predicted, many of these measures reflect reduced or altered lymphocyte and phagocyte activity.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the relationship between altered immune responses and general health. List potential health problems associated with high levels of anxiety.

Keywords: Mental Health, Health Risks

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I assited in the design of the study and analyzed and interpreted the results.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.