Negative mood signals body’s immune response

It is associated with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers.

Researchers at Penn State found negative mood is associated with higher levels of inflammation, inspiring future research to investigate how daily interventions can improve mood. IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES SPUKKATO
Researchers at Penn State found negative mood is associated with higher levels of inflammation, inspiring future research to investigate how daily interventions can improve mood. IMAGE: GETTY IMAGES SPUKKATO

Negative mood can be both a consequence of chronic unresolved stress and a behavioral way of influencing those around us. Because of the complicated nature of these feelings, professional help may be needed.

Frequent negative moods are a sign that stress is beginning to have a detrimental effect on you. You may be experiencing personal burnout.

A new study by the Penn scientists suggests that negative mood like sadness and anger can lead to a higher level of inflammation. It is also a warning sign of poor health.

Negative mood measured multiple times a day over time is associated with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers. This extends prior research showing that clinical depression and hostility are associated with higher inflammation.

Inflammation is a piece of the body’s immune response to such things as infections, wounds, and damage to tissues. Chronic inflammation can add to various diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular illness, diabetes, and a few tumors.

Almost 220 participants were involved in the study. Participants were asked to recall their feelings over a period of time in addition to reporting how they were feeling in the moment, in daily life. These self-assessments were taken over a two-week period, then each was followed by a blood draw to measure markers that indicated inflammation.

The researchers found that negative mood accumulated from the week closer to the blood draw was associated with higher levels of inflammation. The researchers found that negative mood accumulated from the week closer to the blood draw was associated with higher levels of inflammation.

Principal investigator Jennifer Graham-Engeland said, “Additional analyses also suggested that the timing of mood measurement relative to the blood draw mattered. Specifically, there were stronger trends of association between momentary negative affect and inflammation when the negative mood was assessed closer in time to blood collection.”

“This work is novel because researchers not only used questionnaires that asked participants to recall their feelings over a period time, they also asked participants how they were feeling in the moment.”

In addition, momentary positive mood from the same week was associated with lower levels of inflammation, but only among men.

Graham-Engeland said, “We hope that this research will prompt investigators to include momentary measures of stress and affect in research examining inflammation, to replicate the current findings and help characterize the mechanisms underlying associations between effect and inflammation.”

“Because the effect is modifiable, we are excited about these findings and hope that they will spur additional research to understand the connection between affect and inflammation, which in turn may promote novel psychosocial interventions that promote health broadly and help break a cycle that can lead to chronic inflammation, disability, and disease.”

This study was recently published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.