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Life Events, Emotions, and Immune Function: Evidence from Whitehall II Cohort Study

Dich, N; Rozing, MP; Kivimäki, M; Doan, SN; (2019) Life Events, Emotions, and Immune Function: Evidence from Whitehall II Cohort Study. Behavioral Medicine 10.1080/08964289.2019.1570072. (In press).

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Abstract

Stressful life events have been shown to increase vulnerability to infections. However, the effects may be dependent on specific emotional responses associated with these events. In general, negative emotions are thought to exacerbate and positive emotions to protect from the adverse effects of stressors on health. In this study, we adopted an evolutionary and functionalist perspective on emotions and hypothesized that both positive and negative emotions in response to stressful events are protective, whereas absence of emotional reactions exacerbates vulnerability to infections. We assessed immune function using lymphocytes to white blood cells ratio as a proxy for current viral infection in 3,008 British civil workers (30% women). No main effect of stressful life events or emotions on lymphocyte ratio was observed in either sex. However, in men, there was an interaction of life events with both positive and negative emotions as well as a combined measure of general affect. Supporting our hypothesis, stressful life events were associated with impaired immune function in men who reported very low levels of both positive and negative emotions but not in others. We discuss potential benefits of negative and positive emotions in the context of stress and immunity.

Type: Article
Title: Life Events, Emotions, and Immune Function: Evidence from Whitehall II Cohort Study
DOI: 10.1080/08964289.2019.1570072
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1080/08964289.2019.1570072
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: immunity, life events, negative emotions, positive emotions, stress
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Pop Health Sciences > Institute of Epidemiology and Health > Epidemiology and Public Health
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10075160
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