Development of common cold symptoms following experimental rhinovirus infection is related to prior stressful life events

Behav Med. 1992 Fall;18(3):115-20. doi: 10.1080/08964289.1992.9936961.


Previous studies of rhinovirus infection indicate that about one third of the persons with confirmed viral infection do not show evidence of cold symptoms. Factors that determine which infected individuals will develop colds are not known. Using a rhinovirus inoculation protocol, the authors explored the possible role of recent life events, current mood, and perceived stress in the development of symptoms in individuals known to be infected. As part of a larger study, 17 subjects were exposed to a rhinovirus and were individually isolated for 5 consecutive days; cold symptoms, mucus weights, and tissue use were monitored on a daily basis during this period. Although all 17 subjects had confirmed rhinovirus infection, only 12 subjects developed clinical colds, as indicated by self-reported symptoms and by objective symptom indices. The average number of reported major life events for the previous year was significantly higher for those who developed colds than for those who did not (p < .05). Measures of affect and perceived stress before the inoculation were not different for those who did and did not develop colds. Complementing recent research demonstrating psychosocial influences on experimental infection rates, these results provide evidence that the development of cold symptomatology in experimentally infected individuals is related to prior life events.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Common Cold / psychology*
  • Disease Susceptibility / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Picornaviridae Infections / psychology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology*
  • Rhinovirus*
  • Risk Factors