Does being social improve your immune system?



There is considerable evidence that social relationships can influence health, but only limited evidence on the health effects of the personality characteristics that are thought to mold people’s so- cial lives. We asked whether sociability predicts resistance to infec- tious disease and whether this relationship is attributable to the quality and quantity of social interactions and relationships. Three hundred thirty-four volunteers completed questionnaires assessing their sociability, social networks, and social supports, and six evening interviews assessing daily interactions. They were subsequently ex- posed to a virus that causes a common cold and monitored to see who developed verifiable illness. Increased sociability was associated in a linear fashion with a decreased probability of developing a cold. Although sociability was associated with more and higher-quality social interactions, it predicted disease susceptibility independently of these variables. The association between sociability and disease was also independent of baseline immunity (virus-specific antibody), demographics, emotional styles, stress hormones, and health practices.

Source: Cohen, Sheldon; Doyle, William J.; Turner, Ronald; Alper, Cuneyt M.; and Skoner, David P., “SOCIABILITY AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE COMMON COLD” (2003). Department of Psychology. Paper 249.

Hat tip to the excellent Twitter feed of Stanford professor Jennifer Aaker. Her new book is The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways To Use Social Media to Drive Social Change.

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