Many studies have proven that social relationships influence our physical health. People who are more socially integrated live longer, and are less likely to have medical problems such as heart attacks and upper respiratory illness. (Cytokines are small protein molecules - peptides - that regulate our inflammatory immune response. While transient inflammatory response due to tissue insult are adaptive and trigger needed immune responses, chronic increases in proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and TNF-α are linked hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary heart disease, depression, diabetes, and some cancers.) Chiang et al. now show that these cytokines promoting tissue inflammation appear when we are in socially stressful situations:
Research has consistently documented that social relationships influence physical health, a link that may implicate systemic inflammation. We examined whether daily social interactions predict levels of proinflammatory cytokines IL-6 and the soluble receptor for tumor necrosis factor-α (sTNFαRII) and their reactivity to a social stressor. One-hundred twenty-two healthy young adults completed daily diaries for 8 d that assessed positive, negative, and competitive social interactions. Participants then engaged in laboratory stress challenges, and IL-6 and sTNFαRII were collected at baseline and at 25- and 80-min poststressor, from oral mucosal transudate. Negative social interactions predicted elevated sTNFαRII at baseline, and IL-6 and sTNFαRII 25-min poststressor, as well as total output of sTNFαRII. Competitive social interactions predicted elevated baseline levels of IL-6 and sTNFαRII and total output of both cytokines. These findings suggest that daily social interactions that are negative and competitive are associated prospectively with heightened proinflammatory cytokine activity.