TORONTO – Researchers at St. Louis University claim that stress could be as contagious as the common cold and can be passed on through things like tone of voice, facial expressions, posture and even odour.
The university researchers used saliva test kits to measure the level of cortisol, a stress hormone, in people who were confronted by others who were stressed out.
Naturopaths at White Lotus Integrative Medicine in Toronto administer the test several times a week to patients young and old: it seems stress is on the rise.
“These saliva tests are actually a more accurate way to measure cortisol compared to blood tests,” Dr. Fiona McCullough said.
The test costs $180 and includes analysis of saliva samples taken at four different times in a day. The numbers are plotted onto a graph to show specific times there are spikes in stress – it helps to identify individual triggers.
Dr. Steven Selchen, the psychiatrist in charge of the Mindfulness Clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre – says “parents should know that their kids pick up on those sort of things, bosses should know that they’re employees pick up on those things.”
Selchen doesn’t like the term “second hand stress” because you are ultimately in control of the impact that stress has on your mental and physical health:
“Second hand smoke blows in your direction, then you’re in trouble. With second hand stress, we pick up on some people’s stress more than other people’s stress. You can’t compare it to smoking,” he said.
According to Dr. Selchen nothing generates more distress or frustration than believing something has to be the way we want it to be.
“We make it a bigger deal than it is. And then we ruminate and pass on the stress. It’s a vicious circle,” he said.