Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice

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Volume 61 Issue 1 (March 1988), Pages 1-110

Immunological consequences of acute and chronic stressors: Mediating role of interpersonal relationships (pages 77-85)

This review presents recent studies examining the relationship between acute and chronic stressors, changes in immune function, and interpersonal relationships. Data are given which document immunosuppressive effects of commonplace, short‐term stressors, as well as more prolonged stressors, such as marital disruption and caregiving for a relative with Alzheimer's disease. Immune changes included both quantitative and qualitative changes in immune cells, including changes in herpes virus latency, decreases in the percentages of T‐helper lymphocytes and decreases in the numbers and function of natural killer cells. These effects occurred independently of changes in nutrition. Psychological variables, including loneliness, attachment and depression were related to the immune changes. The data are discussed in a framework in which quality interpersonal relationships may serve to attenuate the adverse immunological changes associated with psychological distress, and may have consequences for disease susceptibility and health.

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