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Study reveals that financial stress is associated with worse biological health



Study reveals that financial stress is associated with worse biological health

According to a new study by UCL researchers, people who go through stressful life events or circumstances are more likely to have poorer biological health, as shown by biomarkers involved in the interplay between our immune, neurological, and endocrine systems.

The study, which was published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, discovered that persistent difficulties like financial strain as well as significant stressful events like bereavement were harmful to the harmonious functioning of these systems.

To stay healthy, immunological, neurological, and endocrine systems must communicate with one another. Many physical and mental disorders, including depression and schizophrenia as well as cardiovascular disease, are associated with disruption of these processes.

Signals from the immunological, neurological, and endocrine systems are triggered in response to a threat such as stress, which leads to modifications in behavior and physiology.

In this new investigation, 4,934 participants in the English Longitudinal investigation of Aging who were 50 years of age or older had their blood concentrations for four biomarkers measured. Cortisol and IGF-1, two of these were hormones involved in the physiology of the stress response, and C-reactive protein and fibrinogen, two proteins involved in the innate immune response to inflammation.

To find clusters of biomarker activity, the scientists employed latent profile analysis, a complex statistical technique. There were three categories established: low risk, moderate risk, and high risk. Next, the researchers examined the potential impact of prior exposure to stressful situations on an individual’s probability of falling into the high-risk category.

They discovered that a 61% higher chance of falling into the high-risk category four years later was associated with general exposure to stressful situations, which included anything from being an unpaid caretaker to going through a divorce or losing a loved one in the previous two years.

In addition, the effect was cumulative, meaning that for those who encountered multiple stressful situations, the probability of being in the high-risk group rose by 19% for each stressor.

Four years later, those who had just expressed financial strain—the idea that they might not have enough money to cover their future needs—were 59% more likely to be in the high-risk category.

Lead author Odessa S. Hamilton, a Ph.D. candidate at the UCL Institute of Epidemiology & Health Care, stated, “Health is protected and homeostasis is maintained when the immune and neuroendocrine systems work effectively together. However, long-term stress can sabotage this biological process and result in illness.

“We found that financial stress was most detrimental to biological health, although more research is needed to establish this for certain. This may be because this form of stress can invade many aspects of our lives, leading to family conflict, social exclusion, and even hunger or homelessness.”

Prolonged stress can interfere with the immune system’s and neuroendocrine system’s ability to communicate. This is due to the fact that reactions to stress and illness share some common pathways that are activated (for example, both reactions stimulate the immune system to produce signals known as pro-inflammatory cytokines).

Additionally, the researchers examined genetic variants previously discovered to impact immune-neuroendocrine response and discovered that, regardless of genetic propensity, the relationship between stressful life circumstances and being in the high-risk group four years later remained consistent.


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