Influence of academic examination stress on hematological measurements in subjectively healthy volunteers

Psychiatry Res. 1998 Sep 21;80(3):201-12. doi: 10.1016/s0165-1781(98)00059-6.


Some recent reports showed that a brief exposure to a mental stressor during 3-20 min may induce hematological changes in humans. The aim of the present study was to examine the effects of academic examination stress on erythron variables, such as the number of red blood cells (RBC), hemoglobin (Hb), hematocrit (Ht), mean corpuscular volume (MCV), mean cell Hb (MCH), mean cell Hb concentration (MCHC), RBC distribution width (RDW), and serum iron and transferrin (Tf). The above variables were determined in 41 students in three conditions, i.e. the stress condition (the day before a difficult oral exam) and two baseline conditions, i.e. a few weeks earlier and later. At the same occasions, subjects completed the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the state version of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI) and the Profile of Mood States (POMS). Academic examination stress significantly increased Ht, Hb, MCV, MCH and MCHC and significantly decreased RDW. There were significant relationships between the stress-induced changes in the PSS, STAI and POMS scores and those in Ht, Hb, MCV and MCH (allpositive) and RDW (negative). It is concluded that academic examination stress induces significant hematological changes indicative of an increased number of large RBC and increased hemoglobinisation, which cannot be explained by shifts of fluid out of the intravascular space, concentrating non-diffusible blood constituents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Learning*
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological / blood*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*