Attachment style and immunity: a 1-year longitudinal study

Biol Psychol. 2013 Feb;92(2):353-8. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsycho.2012.10.001. Epub 2012 Oct 13.


Previous cross-sectional studies suggested an association between attachment-related avoidance and altered immune function. We aimed at testing this hypothesis with longitudinal data. A random sample of 65 female nurses provided a blood sample and completed measures of perceived stress, social support, alexithymia, and attachment style. Immune assays included lymphocyte proliferative response (LPR) to Phytohemagglutinin and NK cell cytotoxicity (NKCC). State measures (perceived stress and support) and immune measures were collected again after 4, 8, and 12 months. Linear mixed effects models were used to examine the relationship between attachment and immunity. While low to moderate levels of attachment-related avoidance were not associated with NKCC, there was a significant negative association (beta -.35; p=.005) between high levels of avoidance and NKCC. No association was observed between NKCC and attachment-related anxiety, and between LPR and both attachment dimensions. While our findings should be interpreted with caution due to study limitations such as the relatively small sample size and the inclusion of only female participants, they corroborate the notion that attachment is linked to physiology and health.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affective Symptoms / immunology*
  • Anxiety / immunology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cytotoxicity Tests, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity / physiology*
  • Killer Cells, Natural / metabolism
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Lymphocytes / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nurses / psychology
  • Object Attachment*
  • Psychometrics
  • Regression Analysis
  • Social Support
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult