Stress and Immune System Aging

Rita B. Effros

in The Oxford Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology

Published in print July 2012 | ISBN: 9780195394399
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Stress and Immune System Aging

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Aging of the immune system is responsible for increased severity of infections, reduced vaccine responsiveness, and higher cancer incidence in the elderly. These outcomes can be attributed to several types of stress, including latent viral infections, oxidative stress and psychological stress. The major infectious stressors are herpes viruses, which are usually acquired early in life, persist for many decades and drive certain T cells to replicative senescence, a terminal state characterized by reduced immune function, shortened telomeres, and production of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Chronic psychological and oxidative stress are also associated with shortened telomeres and reduced immune function. Given the wide range of deleterious effects associated with telomere shortening and the resultant immune dysfunction and inflammation, research aimed at retarding the process of replicative senescence—for example, by enhancing telomerase in T cells or by life-style and stress-reduction techniques—are promising approaches for enhancing healthspan in older persons.

Keywords: stress; telomere; telomerase; T cells; immune; human; latent infection; aging; HIV/AIDS

Article.  10967 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology ; Social Psychology

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