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Study Says Stress May be Contagious

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WINSTON-SALEM- Your friends and family's stress could be contagious. A recent study shows observing other people's tension can cause your body to release the stress hormone cortisol.

Daily commutes and heavy workloads are common stress triggers and once stressed, we can actually transfer those feeling to others.

"If we're hanging around with stressful people, if we care for them, or even if it's just associates at work we're going to feel stressed," said Dr. William McCann, a Clinical Psychologist at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center.

McCann says you can pick up others' stress regardless of how they show it. "Women are just more visible, you can just read it more, the stress in woman than men," said McCann. "Men hold it in. They'll be angry, they'll try to hide it."

A recent study showed that men and women both physiologically experience stress reactions equally and that can take a toll on your health.

"They say it's comparable to the impact of smoking, the long term stress on heart functioning," said McCann. "Also headaches, stomach problems, sleep difficulty, insomnia and then the mental health."

And it does not even take human-to-human contact to bring on empathy stress. "You can just watch somebody, who you're not necessarily connected to or care about and still feel stress," said McCann. "So I really ask people to think about the books they read, the television they watch, the movies they watch. People feel like it takes them away from their stresses and it's fun but it has a physiological impact."

So even your favorite late night thriller can raise your anxiety even after the episode. Research shows that empathy stress particularly impacts partners in a romantic relationship.

The study comes from scientists at both The Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Dresden University of Technology.

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