Types of stressors that increase susceptibility to the common cold in healthy adults

Health Psychol. 1998 May;17(3):214-23. doi: 10.1037//0278-6133.17.3.214.


Two-hundred seventy-six volunteers completed a life stressor interview and psychological questionnaires and provided blood and urine samples. They were then inoculated with common cold viruses and monitored for the onset of disease. Although severe acute stressful life events (less than 1 month long) were not associated with developing colds, severe chronic stressors (1 month or longer) were associated with a substantial increase in risk of disease. This relation was attributable primarily to under- or unemployment and to enduring interpersonal difficulties with family or friends. The association between chronic stressors and susceptibility to colds could not be fully explained by differences among stressed and nonstressed persons in social network characteristics, personality, health practices, or prechallenge endocrine or immune measures.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood
  • Causality
  • Common Cold / etiology*
  • Common Cold / immunology
  • Common Cold / psychology
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Epinephrine / blood
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Personality
  • Picornaviridae Infections / etiology
  • Picornaviridae Infections / immunology
  • Picornaviridae Infections / psychology
  • Regression Analysis
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Time Factors
  • Work / psychology


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Hydrocortisone
  • Epinephrine