Managing stress will help fight Covid-19 infections

The recent reaction in Penang to Covid-19 cases and the arrival of Indonesian patients show that worry and anxiety levels are very high in society.

Covid-19 has been with us for over six months and there is every likelihood it will not be eradicated but will be an ever-present problem we have to live with.

Having high anxiety and excessive stress are detrimental to health, reduces our ability to fight against infection and may make us more susceptible to Covid-19.

It is important that the measures of the health ministry are followed. The Covid-19 virus enters through the nose, mouth, and eyes, and we should not be touching these parts of the body with unclean hands. Wearing masks in public places is wise and avoiding being physically close to other people is a good habit.

But avoiding a market near the hospital, stopping hospital staff who were not in contact with Covid-19 patients from leaving their residence or their children from attending school are all inappropriate actions.

Advice from the Cleveland Clinic clearly states that stress reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections.

A study from Norway of over 7,000 people followed up for 12 years showed that those patients anxious about their health are 70% more likely to suffer from heart diseases.

In addition to reducing stress levels to boost the immune system to fight off infections, the Harvard Medical School advises adequate exercise and physical activity.

A study of over 480,000 patients from China showed that major cardiovascular diseases were lower among those with higher levels of physical activity, whether the increase in activity was related to work, or from exercise.

The fight against Covid-19 is a marathon, and to win we must adopt the new habits as advised by the health authorities, manage, and reduce stress as well as increase our level of physical activity and fitness.

In this era of social media, we must be careful about not letting what we read or hear adversely affect our actions and our body’s ability to fight off disease.


Dr Ong Hean Teik and Dr Haniffah Gafoor are former presidents of the Penang Medical Practitioners’ Society.

Dr Gunasekaran is the former chairman of the MMA Penang Branch.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.