Mind-Body and Immune System Studies

The field of psychoneuroimmunology (“psycho” for psychology; “neuro” for neurology, or nervous system; and “immunology” for immunity) began in 1964 after George Solomon a psychiatrist saw that rheumatoid arthritis worsened when people were depressed and this led him to investigate the impact of emotions on inflammation and immune function in general.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, a physician named Herbert Benson, who coined the term “relaxation response”, studied the effects of meditation on blood pressure. Further understanding of how the mind/body link came in 1975, when psychologist Robert Ader showed that mental and emotional cues affect immunity.

In 1989, a study by David Spiegel, M.D. at Stanford University School of Medicine dramatically demonstrated the power of the mind to heal. Taking 86 women with late-stage breast cancer, half received standard medical care while the other half received the standard care plus weekly support sessions in which the women were able to share both their grief and their triumphs. Spiegel discovered that the women who participated in the social support group lived twice as long as the women who did not. A similar study in 1999 showed that in breast cancer patients, helplessness and hopelessness are linked to lesser chances of survival.

Many recent studies also document the effect of meditation on mood and symptoms in people with different types of conditions (such as high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer) as well as improve quality of life. Today, there is renewed interest in age-old traditions such as yoga and meditation. No longer viewed with suspicion, mind/body workshop techniques are now becoming integral parts of holistic care for those with cancer and other life threatening conditions.

How Caregivers Immune System is Weakened

A study by scientists at Ohio State University suggests that the chronic stress of Care-giving affects a critical pathway in the immune system in the long term. This results in chronic health problems like heart disease, arthritis, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. They also found that their reduced immunity continued even long after they ceased to be Carers. So Care-giving may have important implications for future health. Follow the link for more information on courses designed by Gillian specifically for Carers