“Psychoneuroimmunology examined: The role of subjective stress”

“Interest in the interplay between mind and body is deep-rooted. Written accounts in Western society are found as far back as the second century, when the physician Galen remarked that cancer seemed to occur more frequently in melancholic (depressed) than sanguine (happy, spirited) women [1]. In traditional Eastern medicine, mind and body have been considered entwined for centuries, and this attitude continues to today (see [2] for an overview). Relative to these examples, it is only recently that scientific inquiry has taken an interest in the mind-body connection. The past three decades have witnessed an explosion of discoveries in this area, and we have seen psychological factors related to physical ailments from asthma to heart disease [3–9]. The present review focuses on just one aspect of mindbody interaction, but one with far-reaching effects. We review evidence for the relationship between psychological stress and immune function. Using a conceptual model, we review psychological, behavioral, and physiological responses to stressful events before entering into a more in-depth discussion of the potential role of subjective experiences of stress.”

“In addition to CNS and endocrine effects, stress-related behavioral changes can have immune consequences. As noted above, stressed individuals have poorer sleep, exercise, and dietary habits, and they may increase drug and alcohol use. While relatively little is known about the immune effects of such behaviors, some evidence suggests that better health behaviors yield better immune functioning. First, exercise is thought to have protective effects on immune function, especially among older adults [70, 71]. In fact, a recent randomized study shows exercise to improve healing times in experimentally-produced wounds [72]. Second, dissatisfaction with sleep correlates with lower numbers and poorer functioning of immune cells [73– 75]. Third, although moderate amounts of alcohol intake appear to have beneficial effects on immune function, high alcohol intake has been shown to be detrimental to immune function [76]. Interestingly, health behaviors may even moderate the physiological consequences of stress. Exercise has been shown to buffer the effects of stress [45, 77], while smoking intensifies them [78].”

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