A limited number of studies have attempted to show if and how psychological stress can lead to common diseases, such as juvenile diabetes and celiac disease, in children and adolescents. This according to Professor Maria Faresjö at the School of Health Sciences, Jönköping University, who has written a review article published today in the renowned American journal Critical Reviews in Immunology.
Our body is equipped to deal with everyday stress, that is, stress which is short-lived. However, a marked and prolonged stress affects our body and our immune system in a negative way. The immune system, whose task is to protect us against bacteria and viruses, is also involved in a number of common diseases in children and adolescents.
Several medical studies have shown that immunological diseases, such as juvenile diabetes and celiac disease, can cause severe stress and even psychological stress for both the sick child and the people in the child's immediate surroundings.
However, Professor Faresjös review of medical research articles shows that there are too few studies to date that have investigated whether severe psychological stress in children and adolescents can lead to diseases such as juvenile diabetes, celiac disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Professor Faresjö, together with researchers at the School of Health Sciences at Jönköping University, and the Faculty of Health Sciences at Linköping University, have previously shown that a high level of stress in the family can affect the child's immune system. This is one of few studies to date that have shown that a high level of stress affects the immune system negatively, meaning that the immune system is not as resistant when the body is subjected to a high stress level. Faresjö and her colleagues at the School of Health Sciences are now working intensively to further evaluate how negative experiences during childhood and events that occurred recently can lead to negative effects on the body and the immune system. This research will hopefully increase our knowledge of how psychological stress affects the health of children and youth.
The article “The link between psychological stress and autoimmune response in children” is published in the journal Critical Reviews in Immunology (2015, DOI: 10.1615/CritRevImmunol.2015013255).
Maria Faresjö, professor in Biomedical labratory sciences
School of Health Sciences, Jönköping University
Phone: +46 709- 79 70 31