What Driving Anxiety Can do to Your Flu Shot

A number of factors can impact the effectiveness of a flu shot, such as age, overall health – and your mood. A study out of University of Nottingham found that people who enjoyed a good mood also enjoyed higher levels of antibodies following their flu shots.

Higher Levels when Happy

The study, published in the journal Brain, Behavior and Immunity, measured five different variables in a group of 138 older people over a six-week period. Factors that were measured three times each week were:

  • Negative mood
  • Positive mood
  • Physical activity
  • Diet
  • Sleep

Once flu shots were administered to members of the group, researchers set out to see how well the inoculation was performing. They did this by measuring the levels of influenza antibody in the blood after four weeks, and again after 16 weeks.

Results showed that a positive mood was the only factor that had an impact on the vaccination, with a positive mood linked to higher levels of the antibody. Those that were in a good mood the actual day of the vaccination had the highest levels of them all.

Immune System Key to Effective Vaccinations

Vaccinations are affected by how well a person’s immune system functions, and a variety of behavioral and psychological factors can play a role in that functioning. Age is a factor that tends to decrease the immune system’s functioning, which helps explain why vaccinations are less effective for older people in general.

The immune system can also be influenced by the other variables measured for the study, such as sleep, physical activity and diet. Stress has been shown to have a major impact on the immune system, while a link between the immune system and anxiety has likewise been suggested.

That means driving fears, driving anxiety and driving phobia may indeed decrease the efficiency of the immune system. This, in turn, could potentially influence the effectiveness of a flu shot. 

Driving Anxiety and the Immune System

Driving anxiety can be viewed as a form of ongoing stress, which causes the body to release large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol weakens the immune system, as that’s what the hormone was initially designed to do.

During times of extreme stress, such as facing a life-threatening situation, cortisol serves to equip the body to deal with the immediate situation. It does this by taking resources away from certain immunities, such as the ability to prevent diseases your body is designed to control.

While this surge of cortisol can be helpful for things like fighting off predators, it’s only useful in short bursts. The ongoing stress of driving fears or driving anxiety can cause cortisol to continue to suppress disease-preventing immunities over a period time, potentially resulting in an eventual weakening of the immune system.

The ideal fix is not necessarily ensuring you’re in a good mood on the way to getting your flu shot. You may instead want to target and alleviate your ongoing driving fears, driving anxiety and driving phobias to help bolster your immune system as well as your overall health.


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