Decreased immunity in depressive as compared with control subjects has been well documented, although some depressed patients have severe alterations whereas others have milder ones or not at all. Since for equal severities of depression, there may be individual differences in the degree of perceived control over one's condition, we investigated the interaction of perceived control with immunological variations. Immune function (T and B lymphocytes, lymphocyte proliferation and natural killer cell activity (NKCA)) were evaluated in 34 adult major depressives and in 18 healthy controls. Lymphocyte proliferation did not differ between the two groups, but NKCA was significantly lower in the depressed patient group. Among the depressed subjects, those who experienced less subjective control also showed significantly lower NKCA. An internal locus of control appears to act as a buffer against the decrease in cellular immunity observed in major depression. Further studies should focus on methods of coping and on degree of perceived control rather than on diagnostic and nosographic variables alone.