How does optimism suppress immunity? Evaluation of three affective pathways

Suzanne C. Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


Studies have linked optimism to poorer immunity during difficult stressors. In this study, when 1st-year law students (N = 46) relocated to attend law school, reducing conflict among curricular and extracurricular goals, optimism predicted larger delayed-type hypersensitivity responses, indicating more robust in vivo cellular immunity. However, when students did not relocate, increasing goal conflict, optimism predicted smaller responses. Although this effect has been attributed to negative affect when difficult stressors violate optimistic expectancies, distress did not mediate optimism's effects on immunity. Alternative affective mediators related to engagement - engaged affect and fatigue - likewise failed to mediate optimism's effects, although all 3 types of affect independently influenced in vivo immunity. Alternative pathways include effort or self-regulatory depletion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)653-657
Number of pages5
JournalHealth Psychology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2006


  • Distress
  • Engagement
  • Goals
  • Immune
  • Optimism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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