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Study shows stress levels can increase just by observing others in stressful situations


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(NaturalNews) When people say they're getting bad stress vibes from someone, there may actually be some truth to the feeling.

A recent study shows that the stress a person undergoes can also create stress in those around them, a finding that researcher Veronika Engert of the Max Planck Institute calls "astonishing." (1)

Conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Technische Universitat Dresden, simply watching others go through stressful experiences was enough to increase the research subjects own cortisol (stress hormone) levels. In fact, there's speculation based on the findings that even television or movies in which others' faces display stress is enough for the viewers to also obtain a surge in their own stress levels.

Ever feel frustrated or anxious while watching a show or witnessing a real-life situation where the good guy gets taunted or someone sweats it out to complete an activity while the clock counts down? This study basically has everything to do with those feelings, making a strong case for the empathy-stress connection (2). In other words, merely observing someone go through something that is known to generate feelings of stress can create an empathic response that ultimately creates stress in the body.

Details behind the stress study

For the study, loved ones or strangers who were members of the opposite sex were paired. To induce stress, one person in the pair had to perform mathematical problems under the watchful eye of a behavioral analyst while the other person observed from either a video feed or double-sided mirror. The results, published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, found that the 40 percent of people watching loved ones undergo this stress experienced an increase in cortisol levels, but just 10 percent had increased amounts of stress when observing strangers.

30 percent of people had elevated cortisol levels while watching through the mirror and slightly less (24 percent) experienced higher levels when watching through a video feed.

Engert warns that elevated cortisol levels on a routine basis are not healthy. While it is necessary during occasional dangerous situations, she says that " . . . permanently elevated cortisol levels are not good. They have a negative impact on the immune system and neurotoxic properties in the long term."

In fact, the American Psychological Association notes that people under stress tend to miss out on nutrition by skipping meals, overeating or consuming junk foods or having difficulties falling and staying asleep (3). All of these act as disruptions to keeping the body running optimally.

Sources for this article include:

(1) http://www.huffingtonpost.com

(2) http://www.mpg.de/8167448/stress-empathy

(3) http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2011/impact.aspx

About the author:
A science enthusiast with a keen interest in health nutrition, Antonia has been intensely researching various dieting routines for several years now, weighing their highs and their lows, to bring readers the most interesting info and news in the field. While she is very excited about a high raw diet, she likes to keep a fair and balanced approach towards non-raw methods of food preparation as well. >>> Click here to see more by Antonia

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