In a new study, researchers at Penn State have found that negative mood including anger and sadness is linked with higher levels of inflammation in the body, which could be a signal of poor health. The study – featured in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity – is an extension of previous research that showed the association between clinical depression and hostility with higher inflammation. The investigators discovered that the negative mood measured several times a day over time is associated with increased levels of inflammatory biomarkers.
Inflammation is a way of body’s immune response to many conditions such as wounds, infections, and tissue damage. Chronic inflammation could also be a symptom of several diseases including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some forms of cancer.
The new study is believed to be the first examination of links between inflammation measures and momentary as well as recalled measures of mood, lead investigator Jennifer Graham-Engeland reported in the journal. She is an associate professor of biobehavioral health at Penn State.
Participants in the study were instructed to recall their feelings over a time period and self-report their feelings in the moment, in daily life. After two weeks, the self-assessments were taken, followed by collection of blood samples to measure biomarkers that indicate inflammation.
The team found that accumulation of negative mood about a week closer to the blood sample collection was linked with increased levels of inflammation. More analyses suggested that timing of measuring mood relative to blood collection is also an important factor, associate prof. Graham-Engeland said. There were particularly stronger trends of association between momentary negative mood and inflammation when such mood was reported closer in time to blood draw.
The novel study reflects the combination of questionnaires that enquired the participants to recall their feelings over a time period and their feelings in the moment, the researchers said.
Additionally, momentary positive mood from the same week among the male study participants was associated with lower levels of inflammation. As reported in the journal, the study participants were diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, and socio-economy, and the research was cross-sectional. Many analyses were investigative and will need replication, according to the researchers. Findings of the study will further influence the ongoing research to explore how actions in daily life can help improve mood and cope with stress.