Inflammation as a psychophysiological biomarker in chronic psychosocial stress

Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2010 Sep;35(1):115-21. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2009.12.012. Epub 2009 Dec 22.


The measurement of inflammation by biomarkers not only documents clinically relevant infections but also offers an important tool to pin point potentially harmful effects of chronic psychosocial stressors. This article focuses firstly on basic biology of inflammation and lists main biomarkers currently used in psycho-physiologic research. In the second part, the effects of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the autonomic nervous system as pathways modulating stress-related inflammation are discussed. Furthermore, current evidence of how chronic psychosocial stressors are related to alterations in inflammatory activity is presented. In summary, job stress, low socioeconomic status, childhood adversities as well as life events, caregiver stress, and loneliness were all shown to exert effects on immunologic activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute-Phase Proteins / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Biomarkers
  • Burnout, Professional / psychology
  • Caregivers / psychology
  • Cell Migration Assays, Leukocyte
  • Child
  • Chronic Disease
  • Cytokines / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / physiopathology
  • Inflammation / pathology*
  • Inflammation / psychology*
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Pituitary-Adrenal System / physiopathology
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment*
  • Stress, Psychological / pathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*


  • Acute-Phase Proteins
  • Biomarkers
  • Cytokines