Personality and the immune system: Models, methods, and mechanisms

S. C. Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Scopus citations


A relationship between personality and the immune system has been hypothesized for at least 25 years, and understanding this relationship could contribute to understanding how personality affects the onset and course of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. A number of personality dimensions, including repression, optimism, hostility, attributional style, and extraversion-introversion, have been related to immune parameters or immunity. Theoretical and methodological issues in interpreting the extant literature and in planning future research include selection of personality dimensions to study, study design, and attention to potential psychosocial mediators. Past and future investigations using sophisticated theory and methodology to investigate the ongoing influence of personality on physiological systems, including the immune system, promise to advance the understanding of both.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)180-190
Number of pages11
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2000

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
INTRODUCTION In 1964, in an article entitled "Emotions, immunity, and disease: A speculative theoretical integration," George E Solomon and Rudolph H. Moos (1) proposed that the development of rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disease, was related to a spectrum of personality characteristics, including perfectionism, self-sacrifice, and denial of hostility. In over 30 years since that article was published, the field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has burgeoned. Multiple neural and hormonal pathways between the brain and the immune system have been discovered (2), and psychological constructs such as stress and depression have been reliably associated with differences in the immune system (3,4). While personality was the focus of this seminal article in PNI, it has since been investigated relatively little, and there is a paucity of research linking personality and the immune system compared to the number of investigations of the immune effects of stress and depression. However, personality has a pervasive influence on psychological and, potentially, physical well-being. Personality may be described as an enduring, characteristic manner of feeling, thinking, behaving, and relating to others. It differs from other psychological constructs such as mood or cognition primarily by being stable over long periods of time, even a lifetime (5,6). Personality disposes one to behave or feel a certain Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by a Summer Faculty Research Fellowship from the University of Kentucky.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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