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High stress = Colds

Marilyn Elias (Tulsa World)/MONTEREY, Calif. -- When life stresses pile up, it's better to be unpopular than a social butterfly if you want to avoid catching cold, suggests a study out over the weekend.

"Under large amounts of stress, your resistance drops, and if you're seeing a wide variety of people, your body is more challenged by viruses," says Natalie Hamrick of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

With co-author Sheldon Cohen, she asked 114 healthy adults about their social circles at the start of a 12-week study. They were asked to list every group they have contact with at least every two weeks -- families, co-workers, neighbors, friends, and religious and community groups.

Participants also reported negative life events over the past year, such as death, divorce or job-related problems.

Then the researchers waited to see who would catch cold in the next 12 weeks. They divided people into the top or bottom half by how diverse their social contacts were and how many troublesome life experiences they'd had.

After 12 weeks:

60 percent of the very sociable under high stress caught cold versus 22 percent of equally stressed adults with fewer social contacts.

Among the less stressed, 10 percent of the most sociable got colds, compared with 18 percent who had a smaller social circle.

If colds are a concern, "you might want to consider how much exposure you're getting when a lot of stressful things have happened to you," Hamrick says.

(c) 2001 Tulsa World

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