In a new study, researchers found that negative mood—such as sadness and anger—is associated with higher levels of inflammation and may be a signal of poor health.
The Penn State team found that 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 part of the body’s immune response to such things as infections, wounds, and damage to tissues.
Chronic inflammation can contribute to numerous diseases and conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and some cancers.
This study is what the researchers believe is the first examination of associations between both momentary and recalled measures of mood or affects with measures of inflammation.
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.
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 of time, they also asked participants how they were feeling in the moment, Graham-Engeland said.
In addition, the momentary positive mood from the same week was associated with lower levels of inflammation, but only among men in this study.
Participants were from a community sample generated from a housing development in the Bronx, New York, as part of the larger Effects of Stress on Cognitive Aging, Physiology, and Emotion (ESCAPE) study.
Participants were socio-economically, racially and ethnically diverse.
The research was cross-sectional, Graham-Engeland said, and several analyses were exploratory and will require replication.
These results inspire ongoing research to investigate how intervention in daily life can improve mood and help individuals cope with stress.
The team hopes 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.
They hope that the findings may promote novel psychosocial interventions that promote health broadly and help break a cycle that can lead to chronic inflammation, disability, and disease.
The study is published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.
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Source: Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.