Being a Hypochondriac Makes You More Likely to Get Sick - Study Offers Fascinating Findings

You know what they say about your thoughts controlling your reality? That’s a dumb and incredibly irresponsible idea when you’re talking about, say, The Secret. But as it turns out, it may actually be true where your health is concerned.

That’s according to a new study out of Carnegie Mellon University, which finds that self-rated health levels are tied to immunohealth. Study authors report that among healthy subjects between the ages of 18 and 55, “a simple self-rating of health accurately predicts susceptibility to the common cold.” Basically, those who rate their personal health lower have immune systems that are less able to stave off illnesses. People who give themselves high marks where health is concerned are less likely to get sick.

The study involved 360 adults who were asked to rate their health as “excellent, very good, good, fair or poor.” Once the ratings were in, researchers exposed all the participants to the common cold virus and then watched what happened over the next five days. Participants who described their health as “very good, good or fair” were twice as likely to come down with a cold as those who self-identified their health rating as “excellent.” (No one rated themselves as being in “poor” health, which seems logical, since the study sought out healthy individuals.) Researchers found the results were true even when accounting for differences across “age, sex, race, pre-challenge immunity...body mass, season, education, and income.”

Sheldon Cohen, a Carnegie Mellon professor of psychology who led the study, said the findings correlated with those from previous studies of more senior participants. "Poor self-ratings of health have been found to predict poor health trajectories in older adults, including an increased risk for mortality,” said Cohen. “Strikingly, these associations remain significant even after accounting for the effects of objective indicators of health such as physical exams, medical records, and hospitalizations.”

The results of the study hold wider implications for understanding how our views of our health might impact on things like life span, and whether self-evaluations of health are good predictors of likelihood to succumb to infections. According to a news release related to the study:

UCLA School of Medicine's Hyong Jin Cho and Michael Irwin praised the study, calling it a "unique contribution to the understanding of biological mechanisms of the link between self-rated health and morbidity." Cho and Irwin also suggested that the results raise the question of "whether self-rated health serves as a simple cost-effective screening tool for susceptibility to infectious or inflammatory disorders."


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