German Journal of Psychiatry    ISSN 1455-1033

2000, Vol. 3, Supplement 1, S2


Trait-Anxiety – Possible Consequences for Health

 S. Rohrmann1, J. Hennig2, P. Netter2

1Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität, Frankfurt; 2Justus-Liebig-Universität, Giessen


Secretory immunoglobulin A (sIgA) in saliva has been suggested to play an important role in protecting the mucosa of the upper respiratory tract and the oral cavity against viral infections and bacterial adherence (Tomasi, 1970). Low concentrations of sIgA are associated e.g. with caries (Lehner et al., 1967), as well as with repeated infections of the upper respiratory tract (McClelland et al., 1982; Calvo et al., 1988; Tenovuo et al., 1986; Norrby, 1993). Subjects with high scores in neuroticism and anxiety are characterized by lower sIgA baseline levels than low scorers and by a more pronounced reduction of sIgA in certain stress conditions (Graham et al., 1988; Hennig, 1994; Hennig et al., 1996). Furthermore, a meta-analysis performed by van Rood and coworkers (1993) revealed that relaxation consistently leads to highly significant increases in sIgA concentrations.

Considering these findings together, the questions emerge, if subjects high in anxiety report higher frequencies of diseases related to low sIgA baseline levels than low anxious subjects, if these groups differ with respect to changes in sIgA after relaxation training and in subjective effects of this relaxation exercise.

Two studies were conducted to answer these questions: In the first study 232 subjects (118 females, 114 males) filled in a health questionnaire. As shown by correlations subjects high in anxiety reported significantly more sIgA-relevant diseases like e.g. gingivitis than subjects low in anxiety. No correlations were found concerning non-sIgA-relevant diseases like e.g. infections of the urinary tract.

In a second study 28 females and 28 males took part in an experimental relaxation training. Before and after ten minutes of relaxation training, saliva was sampled by salivettes for the determination of sIgA. Furthermore, subjects were asked to rate the effects of the relaxation training and filled in the trait anxiety scale of the State-Trait-Anxiety-Inventory (STAI, Laux et al., 1981). As shown by correlations, high anxious subjects showed significantly higher increases in sIgA after relaxation but at the same time felt less relaxed than low anxious subjects.

These studies indicate, that repeated relaxation training can possibly lead to increased sIgA levels as reported by Green et al. (1988) in particularly in subjects high in anxiety, and that this may perhaps be effective against diseases associated with low sIgA levels.





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©German Journal of Psychiatry

ISSN 1455-1033