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Sunday, 16 April, 2000, 10:51 GMT 11:51 UK
Guilt 'bad for your health'
Chocolate
Chocolate was rated as a guilty pleasure
People who feel guilty about life's pleasures may be damaging their health, research has found.

Previous studies have provided strong evidence that positive thinking has a beneficial impact on well-being.

Now researchers have told the annual conference of the British Psychological Society in Winchester that feelings of guilt may reduce the ability of the immune system to fight off illness.

A team from the University of Hull asked volunteers to list their most pleasurable activities.

These included sex, eating chocolate, drinking and smoking.

They were then asked to rate them according to how much pleasure and guilt they caused.

The volunteers also provided samples of saliva which were measured for levels of immunoglobulin A.

Strong immune system

High levels of immunoglobulin A are associated with a strong immune system, and the ability to fight off illness.

The researchers found that immunoglobulin A levels were lower in those people whose pleasures were accompanied by more feelings of guilt.

Dr Geoff Lowe, a chartered health psychologist who took part in the study, said the findings were consistent with previous research he had conducted that showed people with low levels of guilt were less likely to go to the doctor, or to report suffering from colds or flu.

He said: "This biological reaction may be a kind of reward for doing things that are good for us."

He also said that feelings of guilt were useful if they helped to dissuade people from doing things that were bad for them.

"If one enjoys chocolate, but every time one eats a bar one experiences feelings of guilt then it might eventually lead to a modification of that behaviour."

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13 Apr 00 | Health
Stress slows healing
23 Apr 99 | Health
The power of mind over matter
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