Health: Study: Stress can be contagious

Yawning is contagious, we know that. Researchers have now found: Stress can also spread to other people – especially if you know the person well.

For those who are relaxing, it can become stressful when they see another person in a tense situation – this is what researchers from Leipzig and Dresden. Often, observation alone is enough for your body to release the hormone cortisol, according to the team of Tania Singer of the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Neurosciences in Leipzig and Clemens Kirschbaum of the Technical University of Dresden. Scientists call this empathic pressure.

On the stress test, subjects had to solve difficult mental math tasks and master job interviews. As a result, cortisol increased in a total of 26 percent of the observers. If the viewers partnered with the test subjects, 40 percent would have reacted this way. With strangers, the tension jumped to over ten percent of the observers.

If the audience was able to follow the action live, 30 percent responded with concern. After all, it was still 24 percent on screen. “This means that even TV shows that confront me with the suffering of others can transfer the stress to me,” said Veronica Engert of the Max Planck Institute. The study is published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology. (Dpa)

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