Resources, stress, and immunity: An ecological perspective on human psychoneuroimmunology

Suzanne C. Segerstrom

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Ecological immunology provides a broad theoretical perspective on phenotypic plasticity in immunity, that is, changes related to the value of immunity across different situations, including stressful situations. Costs of a maximally efficient immune response may at times outweigh benefits, and some aspects of immunity may be adaptively suppressed. This review provides a basic overview of the tenets of ecological immunology and the energetic costs of immunity and relates them to the literature on stress and immunity. Sickness behavior preserves energy for use by the immune system, acute stress mobilizes "first-line" immune defenders while suppressing more costly responses, and chronic stress may suppress costly responses in order to conserve energy to counteract the resource loss associated with stress. Unexpected relationships between stress "buffers" and immune functions demonstrate phenotypic plasticity related to resource pursuit or preservation. In conclusion, ecological models may aid in understanding the relationship between stress and immunity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-125
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 2010


  • Ecology
  • Optimism
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Sickness behavior
  • Social
  • Stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology (all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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