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Cure for a cold? Don't worry, be happy

August 11, 2003|Dianne Partie Lange

Being calm and happy may be your best defense against catching a cold.

Researchers interviewed 334 healthy men and women to determine their emotional coping style: Were they lively, energetic, cheerful and relaxed? Or sad, unhappy, on edge and hostile? The participants were then given nose drops containing two types of cold viruses and quarantined for five days. During that time, researchers performed various tests to determine whether participants became infected.

"Negative emotional style didn't appear to be related to whether people got sick or not," says lead author Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "But people who were high in positive emotional style were less likely to get sick." And, the more positive they were, the more resistant they were.

How being positive protects against infection isn't known, and Cohen says more research needs to be done to confirm his findings.

Still, he says, "Telling people to try to be happy isn't going to hurt them."

The study was published in the July/August issue of Psychosomatic Medicine.

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-- Dianne Partie Lange

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