Health psychology: psychological factors and physical disease from the perspective of human psychoneuroimmunology

Annu Rev Psychol. 1996:47:113-42. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.47.1.113.


This review addresses the importance of studies of human psychoneuroimmunology in understanding the role of psychological factors in physical illness. First, it provides psychologically and biologically plausible explanations for how psychological factors might influence immunity and immune system-mediated disease. Second, it covers substantial evidence that factors such as stress, negative affect, clinical depression, social support, and repression/denial can influence both cellular and humoral indicators of immune status and function. Third, at least in the case of the less serious infectious diseases (colds, influenza, herpes), it considers consistent and convincing evidence of links between stress and negative affect and disease onset and progression. Although still early in its development, research also suggests a role of psychological factors in autoimmune diseases. Evidence for effects of stress, depression, and repression/denial on onset and progression of AIDs and cancer is less consistent and inconclusive, possibly owing to methodological limitations inherent in studying these complex illnesses, or because psychological influences on immunity are not of the magnitude or type necessary to alter the body's response in these cases. What is missing in this literature, however, is strong evidence that the associations between psychological factors and disease that do exist are attributable to immune changes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / immunology
  • Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome / psychology
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / immunology
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Immunocompetence / immunology
  • Neoplasms / immunology
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Prognosis
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / immunology*
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / psychology
  • Sick Role*
  • Somatoform Disorders / immunology*
  • Somatoform Disorders / psychology
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*