Stress and anxiety can make it more difficult for wounds to heal, new research has shown.
Researchers inflicted small “punch” wounds on healthy volunteers, after they had measured their levels of life stress with a questionnaire. The wounds of the most stressed participants were found to heal twice as slowly as those of the least anxious.
The differences in healing speed were linked to changes in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Analysis of pooled data from 22 studies by different research groups examining stress and wound healing provided a similar pattern.
Professor John Weinman, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, presented the findings at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
He had previously demonstrated that wound healing can be enhanced by psychological help aimed at addressing emotional stress.
Professor Weinman said: “These studies focus specifically on how the life stresses people experience can impact on their ability to recover from different types of wound, such as those caused by surgical procedures and by different medical conditions, including venous leg ulcers.
“I hope that these findings can now be used to identify psychological interventions to help speed up the recovery and healing process.”