The immune system and happiness

Psychogeriatric Department, Abarbanel Mental Health Center, Bat-Yam and the Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University, Bat-Yam, Israel.
Autoimmunity Reviews (Impact Factor: 7.93). 11/2006; 5(8):523-7. DOI: 10.1016/j.autrev.2006.02.010
Source: PubMed


Human ability to experience negative and positive emotions has an evolutionary perspective and the presence of feelings designed to influence behavior should thus be reflected in physiological and immune interactions. The complex interactions between the immune system and the central nervous system have been studied extensively in schizophrenia and depression. On the other hand, effects of positive human emotions, especially happiness, on physiological parameters and immunity have received very little attention. Emotions are intimately involved in the initiation or progression of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders. The specific physiological responses induced by pleasant stimuli were recently investigated with the immune and endocrine systems being monitored when pleasant stimuli such as odors and emotional pictures were presented to subjects. The results revealed that an increase in secretory immunoglobulin A and a decrease in salivary cortisol were induced by pleasant emotions. The mechanisms by which positive as opposed to negative states are instantiated in the brain and interact with the immune system are not yet understood. The present review investigates relations among physiological measures of affective style, psychological well-being, and immune function. There is data to support the hypothesis that individuals characterized by a more negative affective style poorly recruit their immune response and may be at risk for illness more so than those with a positive affective style. Future research is needed to expand our knowledge of the physiological and immune interactions of positive emotional states and their beneficial effects on health.

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    • "In humans, there is evidence that positive affective states may boost immunity and improve physical health (reviewed in Barak, 2006; Pressman and Cohen, 2005; Salovey et al., 2000). Pressman and Cohen review the ways in which positive affect may impact immunity, such as influencing the production of specific cytokines, reducing allergic reactions, increasing peripheral white blood cell populations, and increasing secretory immunoglobulin-A (IgA) concentrations (Pressman and Cohen, 2005). "
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    ABSTRACT: In recent years, zoos and aquaria have intensified efforts to develop approaches and tools for assessing the welfare of populations and individual animals in their care. Advances made by welfare scientists conducting studies on exotic, farm, laboratory, and companion animals have led to the emergence of a new perspective on welfare assessment in zoos. This perspective: (1) emphasizes the importance of supplementing resource-based assessments with animal-based approaches that require measures of the behavioral and/or physical state of individual animals, (2) focuses on the subjective experiences of individual animals, and (3) considers positive affective states. We propose that the zoo community also should increase efforts to integrate measures of positive affect into both population-level studies and tools for monitoring individual well-being. For years, zoo welfare researchers have conducted trans-disciplinary, multi-institutional studies to identify risk factors associated with poor welfare. In the future, large-scale research projects, as well as epidemiological studies specifically designed to examine the patterns of welfare issues within populations, should integrate behavioral, physiological, and biological measures of good well-being (e.g. play, exploratory behaviors, measures of immunological function). While the results of population-level studies can be used to refine animal care guidelines, individual animals should be monitored to ensure that their needs are being met. Furthermore, after determining how to elicit positive affective states in individual animals, the zoo community should attempt to promote these states by offering positive experiences. We describe two strategies that zoos can currently pursue to facilitate the occurrence of positive affective states: (1) provide animals with stimulating opportunities to overcome challenges, make choices, and have some level of control over their environments, and (2) promote appropriate and beneficial keeper−animal relationships. Ultimately, we hope that as welfare researchers gain a better understanding of how to assess and promote good well-being, zoos and aquaria can apply these findings to actively strive toward achieving the best possible welfare for all animals in their care.
    Applied Animal Behaviour Science 08/2013; 147(3-4):247-260. DOI:10.1016/j.applanim.2013.02.004 · 1.69 Impact Factor
    • "Third, a smile might be a cue to better health and thus to genetic benefits than a neutral expression. For example, higher levels of positive affect are associated with a lower incidence of a stroke (Ostir, Markides, Peek, & Goodwin, 2001) and changes in affective states are related to changes in cardiovascular function (Lovallo, 2004; see Barak, 2006; Dockray & Steptoe, 2010, for reviews). Therefore, a positive facial expression may*either consciously or unconsciously*lead to the attribution of a better health status. "
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    ABSTRACT: Previous studies have suggested a link between the processing of the emotional expression of a face and how attractive it appears. In two experiments we investigated the interrelationship between attractiveness and happiness. In Experiment 1 we presented morphed faces varying in attractiveness and happiness and asked participants to choose the more attractive of two simultaneously presented faces. In the second experiment we used the same stimuli as in Experiment 1 and asked participants to choose the happier face. The results of Experiment 1 revealed that the evaluation of attractiveness is strongly influenced by the intensity of a smile expressed on a face: A happy facial expression could even compensate for relative unattractiveness. Conversely, the findings of Experiment 2 showed that facial attractiveness also influences the evaluation of happiness: It was easier to choose the happier of two faces if the happier face was also more attractive. We discuss the interrelationship of happiness and attractiveness with regard to evolutionary relevance of positive affective status and rewarding effects.
    Cognition and Emotion 07/2013; 28(2). DOI:10.1080/02699931.2013.817383 · 2.52 Impact Factor
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    • "The menopausal transition is a period of important physical and emotional changes which are in general determined by biological, cultural, social and psychological aspects within the ageing process [1] [2] [3] [4]. Positive emotions are related to effective coping and better immune function [5] [6] [7]. Life satisfaction during female midlife may be related to accomplished goals and frustrations. "
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    ABSTRACT: Studies reporting on resilience (capacity to overcome life adversity) and the menopausal transition are scarce. To assess resilience and related factors in mid-aged Ecuadorian women. This was a cross sectional study in which 904 women aged 40-59 completed the 14-item Wagnild and Young Resilience Scale (WYRS) and a general socio-demographic questionnaire containing personal and partner data. Lower total WYRS scores indicate less resilience. Internal consistency of the tool was also assessed. Median age of all surveyed women was 49 years. A 51.1% were postmenopausal, 43.8% lived high altitude, 43.5% were abdominally obese, 12.6% used hormone therapy and 80.8% had a partner. Internal consistency was high for the WYRS tool (Cronbach's alpha: 0.94). Multiple linear regression analysis determined that lower total WYRS scores (less resilience) correlated with high altitude residency, more severe hot flushes, sedentarism, higher abdominal circumferences and having a partner with erectile dysfunction. Contrary to this, higher WYRS scores correlated with higher parity and sexual activity. As assessed with the WYRS tool, lower resilience of this mid-aged Ecuadorian female sample was related to various female and partner lifestyle and health issues, not necessarily related per se to the ageing process. More research using the tool is warranted.
    Maturitas 03/2012; 72(2):152-6. DOI:10.1016/j.maturitas.2012.03.004 · 2.94 Impact Factor
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