Stress and anxiety can make it harder for wounds to heal, scientists have shown. Researchers inflicted small "punch" wounds on healthy volunteers whose levels of life stress were gauged using a standard questionnaire.
The wounds of the least anxious participants were found to heal twice as fast as those of the most stressed.
Changes in levels of the stress hormone cortisol reflected the differences in healing speed. A similar pattern emerged from an analysis of pooled data from 22 studies by different research groups examining stress and wound healing.
Professor John Weinman, from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London, presented the findings at the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Previously, he had shown that healing can be enhanced by psychological help aimed at easing emotional stress.
Professor Weinman said: "My [research focuses] on investigating... how patients perceive illness and treatment, and how this affects the way they respond to and recover from a range of physical health problems.
"These studies focus specifically on how the life stresses people experience can impact on their ability to recover from different types of wound, such as those caused by surgical procedures and by different medical conditions, including venous leg ulcers.
"I hope that these findings can now be used to identify psychological interventions to help speed up the recovery and healing process."