Personality and Human Immunity

Sheldon Cohen, Denise Janicki-Deverts, Crista N. Crittenden and Rodlescia S. Sneed

in The Oxford Handbook of Psychoneuroimmunology

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

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

Personality and Human Immunity

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We review evidence on the role of personality traits in immune function including studies of enumerative and functional immune markers and of host resistance to infectious illness. We begin by discussing a series of pathways through which traits may influence immunity: immune-altering behaviors; concomitant activation of physiological systems; aggravation or attenuation of the activating effects of environmental demands or stressors; or selection into environments that alter immunity. We focus on the “Big Five” personality factors—extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and openness to experience but also address other trait characteristics that do not cleanly fit into the Big Five typology including dispositional optimism, trait positive affect, hostility, and social inhibition. We conclude that the literature on personality and immunity is in its infancy and not developed enough to make any definitive conclusions. We can say that there is evidence of possible associations with immunity across all the traits, with existing data suggesting some reliable associations. We suggest the importance of future works being based in trait-specific theory and outline a number of important methodological concerns.

Keywords: personality; Big Five; extraversion; agreeableness; neuroticism; conscientiousness; openness to experience; optimism; positive affect; hostility; social inhibition; immunity; immune function; host resistance; infectious disease

Article.  17385 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Health Psychology ; Social Psychology

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