Washington: Turns out, teenagers dealing with stress because of their families may affect certain processes in the body, including blood pressure and the immune system.
The researchers at the Penn State explored the strategies adolescents used to deal with chronic family stress and their effects on various metabolic and immune processes in the body.
Strategies could include cognitive reappraisal — trying to think of the stressor in a more positive way — and suppression, or inhibiting the expression of emotions in reaction to a stressor.
The team found that when faced with greater chronic family stress, teens, who used cognitive reappraisal, had better metabolic measures.
“These changes are not something that will detrimentally impact anyone’s health within a week or two, but that over years or decades could make a difference,” said Hannah Schreier, a researcher.
“That may be how small changes in metabolic or inflammatory outcomes may become associated with poorer health or a greater chance of developing a chronic disease later in life.”
Exposure to chronic stress doesn’t always lead to poorer health outcomes, in part because of differences among people.
The findings of the study suggested that there may be ways to help someone be more resilient in the face of stress by encouraging certain emotion regulation strategies
The researchers also found that under conditions of greater chronic family stress, the immune cells of adolescents who were more likely to use suppression also tended to produce more pro-inflammatory cytokines, molecules that signal to other cells that there is a threat present and that the body’s immune system needs to kick into gear.
“Cytokines are like messengers that communicate to the rest of the body that added support is needed.
Meanwhile, the researchers found that adolescents who tended to use cognitive reappraisal while under more family stress had smaller waist-to-hip ratios — a measurement used as an indicator of health and chronic disease risk — and lower blood pressure.