Stress causes wounds to heal more slowly
10 June 2010
Stress and anxiety can significantly impair wound healing as well as other aspects of recovery according to new research, presented at The Times Cheltenham Science Festival by Professor John Weinman, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London.
In a study into to what extent stress levels impact on the rate of skin healing, identical small punch biopsy wounds were inflicted on a sample of healthy participants, whose levels of life stress were independently assessed using a standardised questionnaire. The wounds were monitored over a period of three weeks, using a highly magnified ultrasound imaging technique to provide accurate measures of the changing shape of the wound.
Results revealed a strong relationship between stress and how quickly these wounds heal. The results showed that the wounds of the least stressed individuals healed at approximately twice the rate of those of the most stressed individuals, and that the changes in the stress hormone, Cortisol, mirrored these differences in speed of wound healing.
Following this study, these results have been replicated and confirmed by a recently completed systematic review of 22 studies from different research groups examining stress and wound healing across a wide range of wound healing paradigms and assessment methods.
To strengthen the conclusion that stress causes slower wound healing, Professor Weinman told the Cheltenham audience that he had also recently published a study showing that wound healing can be enhanced by a psychological intervention focused on disclosing emotional stresses.
Professor Weinman, said: 'My overall research interests are focused on investigating and assessing how patients perceive illness and treatment and how this affects the way they respond to and recover from a range of physical health problems. These studies focus specifically on how the life stresses people experience can impact on their ability to recover from different types of wound, such as those caused by surgical procedures and by different medical conditions, including venous leg ulcers.
'I hope that these findings can now be used to identify psychological interventions to help speed up the recovery and healing process.'
King’s is partnering all four Cheltenham Festivals this year and the Science Festival takes place from 9 - 13 June, to learn more, please follow the link: http://www.iop.kcl.ac.uk/news/default.aspx?id=414&.