A New Wimp Factor?
Immune systems weaker in Clark Kent types
By Randy Dotinga
WEDNESDAY, Aug. 22 (HealthSCOUT) -- As if nice guys don't have
already finish last, as the saying goes, and now researchers
say their immune systems leave something to be desired, too.
with medium or high levels of aggression are better equipped
to fight off germs than their mild-mannered counterparts, says
a new study.
with very low levels of aggression did not have particularly
robust immune systems," says study co-author Alan Booth,
a professor of sociology and human development at Pennsylvania
State University. Results appear in the August issue of Psychosomatic
Medicine, the journal of the American Psychosomatic
and his colleagues looked at information collected on 4,415
Vietnam veterans, aged 30 to 48, who were surveyed in the
early 1980s. The participants were asked 12 questions about
criminal activity, trouble in school, arrest records and
violent behavior. Blood samples also were taken from the men,
and researchers measured the levels of eight different types
of white cells, which help the body fight disease.
specialized types of white-blood cells, known as CD4 and B
cells, seem to be linked to aggression, the researchers say.
CD4 cells communicate with other cells about invading germs,
while the B cells store information about every disease a
person has ever had, Booth says.
aggressive men -- defined by the researchers as those who say
they engaged in two of the 12 aggressive behaviors in the
questionnaire -- were 30 percent more likely to have high
levels of those cells than the men who reported no aggressive
acts, the study says.
numbers didn't hold up as well for the more aggressive
participants. Men reporting five aggressive acts were just 7
percent more likely to have strong immune systems than those
connection between aggression and immune systems may have
something to do with battles for survival in prehistoric
times, Booth says. Aggressive men, such as warriors or
hunters, would face more germs on the road or in new
environments, he says.
makes sense that the people taking risks would have better
immune systems," Booth says.
just interesting. Some of this was just driven by
curiosity," he says.
Gailen D. Marshall, director of the division of allergy and
clinical immunology at the medical school of the University of
Texas-Houston, says the study lays the groundwork for future
research that should investigate exactly what happens to the
immune system in aggressive people.
boosted immune system is not always a good thing, Marshall
can get a hypersensitivity to diseases in which the body
overreacts to itself or a pollen or food," and that can
create conditions like asthma, Marshall says.
says the study appears to support research that says good
mental health, including the venting of internal stress,
boosts the immune system.
he says many types of aggression should remain unacceptable.
hope this doesn't suggest that if you go out and have a good
bar fight, your immune system will be better," he says.
the next time you hold in your anger that keeping your
feelings bottled up is known to be bad for your health.