Social Networks, and
Susceptibility to Infection
During the past several decades, support has grown for the premise that psychological and social factors can influence physical health. This includes evidence that enduring stressful life events and prolonged negative moods (e.g., depression, anxiety, anger) can increase risk for physical illness and early death (e.g., reviews by Booth-Kewley & Friedman, 1987; Cohen & Williamson, 1991; Schneiderman et al., 1989). It also includes evidence that those who participate in diverse social networks that include family, friends, workmates, neighbors, and fellow members of social and religious groups live longer and healthier lives than their less socially adept counterparts (e.g., Berkman & Syme, 1979; House et al., 1988; Vogt et al., 1992).
My own interests in this area have focused on the potential impact of psychological and social factors on the immune system, and consequently on our ability to fight off infectious disease. Here I begin by providing a selective overview of the evidence for the effects of psychosocial factors on the functional capabilities of the immune system. I then discuss similar data linking these same factors to the onset and progression of infectious disease. I provide only cursory reviews and refer the reader to Cohen and Herbert (1996), Cohen, Miller, et al. (2001), and Herbert and Cohen