Feeling rejected from peers, loved ones, and colleagues not may not only hurt one’s emotions, but may also damage mental and physical health. Researchers have found evidence that when people undergo very personal situations of rejection like being let go in a romantic relationship, ostracized from kids at school, or fired from a job, they may be at higher risk of developing depression and physical illnesses related to inflammatory diseases.
An Immune Response
In the study published in Clinical Psychological Science, lead researcher, Michael Murphy and his team sought to find a link between social stresses and its effect on mental and physical health. They focused on studying how the human immune process responded to these difficult personal stressors and what that may mean for a person’s overall health.
For a little over two years, Murphy’s team studied 147 women who were at risk for major depression. For each woman, the researchers studied the following:
- How often they had experienced some kind of social rejection
- How they perceived their own social status
- Their psychiatric diagnosis
- Signs of inflammatory signaling molecules
- Six month check-ups for signs of low-grade inflammation.
While any stress is detrimental to a person’s health, this study indicated that stress from being personally singled out for rejection is very harmful. Researchers found that when people feel rejected, certain molecules are activated in the body which will cause inflammation. Compared to a group that had not experienced any recent rejection, those who were feeling rejected had much higher levels of inflammatory signaling molecules.
The Long-term Harm of Inflammation
Sometimes a loss may create a gain. When someone is rejected, they may find new courage to keep striving for better things in their life. It may light a fire of perseverance within them. But the initial shock to the body of rejection is difficult. The initial feelings of loss, parting, and exclusion may pull a person into depression. For those who only feel the loss and not the strength of perseverance, the temporary depression can become deeply rooted. Treatment and counseling can help the person find their inner strength again.
Now that Murphy and his team have found a link between inflammation and social rejection, they believe that future studies could help understand how the body’s response to rejection could affect physical diseases. Diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and certain cancers are all related to inflammation.
Mental health and physical health work in partnership to either help may a body stronger or weaken it. Many studies have shown how a healthy mind can create and maintain a healthy body. Holistic approaches, healing the whole person, are common when treating patients. When a person undergoes stress from a personal rejection, friends, doctors, and loved ones could lend a supporting arm by observing the person’s health. If signs of depression are noticed, prompt treatment could help keep prevent both mental and physical problems down the road.