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A Good Mood Could Boost Your Flu Shot's Effectiveness, Study Suggests

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Even if flu shots don't bother you, you probably also don't exactly look forward to getting them either. But instead of preparing for this flu season by dreading your annual prick, why not turn that frown upside down when you visit your doctor? According to a new study, doing so could increase your flu shot's effectiveness!

Researched published in the journal Brain, Behavior, and Immunity followed 138 older adults in the U.K. who were due for their flu shot for six weeks. They recorded the patient's negative mood, positive mood, diet, and sleep three times a week for that month-and-a-half period to determine whether these factors could impact the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. The number of influenza antibodies in the blood four and 16 weeks after the flu jab were measured as an indicator of how successful the vaccination was.

What they found was that only positive mood levels recorded during that six-week observational period were an accurate predictor of the vaccine's effectiveness. Those patients who were in good moods were more likely to have higher influenza antibody counts in their blood. Researchers also noted that good moods on the day of the flu shot could explain eight to 14 percent of the variation in antibody levels.

Vaccinations are a successful way of reducing a person's chances of catching an infectious disease, researcher and professor Kavita Vedhara said. However, people with less effective immune systems — like the elderly — may find that vaccines don't work for them; according to the study, the flu vaccination is effective in only 17 to 53 percent of older adults versus 70 to 90 percent of young people. So knowing how to boost the immune system by affecting behavioral and psychological — like stress — can impact how well vaccines work, Vedhara said.

Because participants in this study were given the same flu vaccination as the one they had received last year — this was an unusual occurrence in that flu vaccinations had not been the same for two consecutive years since the turn of the century — they already had high levels of antibodies for two of the three virus strains in the vaccination. As a result of this "ceiling effect," researchers said it was not likely that antibody levels for these viruses would increase and decided to study the third strain, which participants had the lowest level of antibodies for in their blood.

In the future, there needs to be more research on this topic, researchers said. But if you're following flu experts' recommendations and getting your shot before the start of influenza season in November, it might be a good idea to focus on being happy in the weeks leading up to your prick.

h/t Science Daily

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