It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a connection between stress and susceptibility to the common cold. Lifestyle, in general, can have an effect on the immune system. Alcohol consumption, smoking and even skipping breakfast can make you more susceptible to colds and the flu, according to the Economic and Social Research Council (research released March 2002)
A research study performed at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University involved nearly 500 students. The subjects were asked to present themselves within six to 96 hours of contacting an upper respiratory infection. More of the 188 subjects who caught colds were likely to be drinkers or smokers than those who stayed healthy. Stress also seemed to increase the chance of illness.
A second study, involving 100 participants, was performed. It related illness to dietary habits. The subjects kept a diary for 10 weeks; in it they recorded any problems with memory and attention and any illness. Subjects who had more than one illness during the study were less likely to eat breakfast and more likely to drink alcohol. Those who developed more than one illness also tended to have negative, stressful events over the preceding year.
According to Professor Andrew Smith, author of the studies, the studies demonstrate the effect of upper respiratory infections on performance and mood. They also show that health habits and behavior may be related to the tendency to get colds or the flu. “Further research on the impact of minor illnesses in industry and education is now needed’ says Professor Smith, “Awareness of the effects of performing whilst ill should also be increased and possible counter measures considered”.