Another recent piece of research shows one of the ways that emotional stress can affect health. Their focus was on racism, but the part I want to pick up on is stress, taking racial discrimination as an example of a stressor.
The *International Journal of Behavioral Medicine* has scheduled an article for publication in a future issue: “Racial Discrimination Is Associated with a Measure of Red Blood Cell Oxidative Stress: A Potential Pathway for Racial Health Disparities.”
The authors are Sarah L. Szanton, Joseph M. Rifkind, Joy G. Mohanty, Edgar R. Miller, Roland J. Thorpe, Eneka Nagababu, Elissa S. Epel, Alan B. Zonderman, and Michele K. Evans.
Conditions associated with perceived racial discrimination are higher blood pressure, increased obesity, cardiovascular reactivity, worse self-reported health, and earlier morbidity
How does this happen?
From their abstract:
“Oxidative stress is the process by which “free radicals” or reactive oxygen species damage cellular components including DNA, proteins, and lipids. “Oxidative stress” is the term for the imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species and intrinsic protection mechanisms. There is a small literature suggesting that psychological stress may increase oxidative stress. ”
They conclude: “In summary, these findings suggest that there could be identifiable physiologic pathways by which psychological stress amplifies risk of cardiovascular and other age related diseases”, i.e. oxidative stress.
Again, stress-related disease is not “all in your head”, emotions really do have an impact on the body and on health, and again, it’s not all just a matter of chemistry. Biology interacts with the environment, and so-called chemical imbalances are not just a product of unfortunate genes.