Summary

In general, research has produced mixed results with regard to the effects of stress on immune activity. This may be due, in large part, to differences in methodology, subject samples, and especially immune components being examined. The immune system is an extremely complex physiological system with numerous cellular and chemical components that may respond differently to stressful stimuli. Therefore, it is necessary in future research to examine multiple measures of immunity rather than focusing on one particular cell or cytokine. Overall, acute and chronic stressors appear to be associated with immunosup-pression, although acute stress has been linked to increases in the number of circulating lymphocytes and increases in NK activity. With regard to traumatic stress, very little research has been conducted examining immune changes during acute phases of responding to a traumatic event. Long-term immune changes appear to parallel the immunosuppression seen in chronic stress and depression; however, research has suggested that chronic PTSD may be associated with immunoenhancement.

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