Effects of stress on immune function: The good, the bad, and the beautiful

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

269 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Although the concept of stress has earned a bad reputation, it is important to recognize that the adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight. While long-term stress is generally harmful, shortterm stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges. This review discusses the immune effects of biological stress responses that can be induced by psychological, physiological, or physical (including exercise) stressors. We have proposed that short-term stress is one of the nature's fundamental but under-appreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection. Short-term (i.e., lasting for minutes to hours) stress experienced during immune activation enhances innate/primary and adaptive/secondary immune responses. Mechanisms of immuno-enhancement include changes in dendritic cell, neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte trafficking, maturation, and function as well as local and systemic production of cytokines. In contrast, long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses by altering the Type 1-Type 2 cytokine balance, inducing low-grade chronic inflammation, and suppressing numbers, trafficking, and function of immunoprotective cells. Chronic stress may also increase susceptibility to some types of cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells and increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell function. Here, we classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss "good" versus "bad" effects of stress on health. Thus, short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective (wound healing, vaccination, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or immuno-pathological (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune) responses. In contrast, chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses. Studies such as the ones discussed here could provide mechanistic targets and conceptual frameworks for pharmacological and/or biobehavioral interventions designed to enhance the effects of "good" stress, minimize the effects of "bad" stress, and maximally promote health and healing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-210
Number of pages18
JournalImmunologic Research
Volume58
Issue number2-3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014
Externally publishedYes

Fingerprint

Physiological Stress
Adaptive Immunity
Cytokines
Health
Regulatory T-Lymphocytes
Autoimmunity
Innate Immunity
Wound Healing
Dendritic Cells
Neoplasms
Vaccination
Neutrophils
Macrophages
Pharmacology
Lymphocytes
Exercise
Psychology
Inflammation
T-Lymphocytes

Keywords

  • Endocrinology/Hormones
  • Exercise
  • Immune cell trafficking
  • Neuro-Endocrine-Immunology
  • Psycho-Neuro-Immunology
  • Psychological/physical/physiological stress
  • Stress-reduction interventions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology

Cite this

Effects of stress on immune function : The good, the bad, and the beautiful. / Dhabhar, Firdaus.

In: Immunologic Research, Vol. 58, No. 2-3, 01.01.2014, p. 193-210.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

@article{98b2ee3a10944fc6b5c1a13fc1521afe,
title = "Effects of stress on immune function: The good, the bad, and the beautiful",
abstract = "Although the concept of stress has earned a bad reputation, it is important to recognize that the adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight. While long-term stress is generally harmful, shortterm stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges. This review discusses the immune effects of biological stress responses that can be induced by psychological, physiological, or physical (including exercise) stressors. We have proposed that short-term stress is one of the nature's fundamental but under-appreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection. Short-term (i.e., lasting for minutes to hours) stress experienced during immune activation enhances innate/primary and adaptive/secondary immune responses. Mechanisms of immuno-enhancement include changes in dendritic cell, neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte trafficking, maturation, and function as well as local and systemic production of cytokines. In contrast, long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses by altering the Type 1-Type 2 cytokine balance, inducing low-grade chronic inflammation, and suppressing numbers, trafficking, and function of immunoprotective cells. Chronic stress may also increase susceptibility to some types of cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells and increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell function. Here, we classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss {"}good{"} versus {"}bad{"} effects of stress on health. Thus, short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective (wound healing, vaccination, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or immuno-pathological (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune) responses. In contrast, chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses. Studies such as the ones discussed here could provide mechanistic targets and conceptual frameworks for pharmacological and/or biobehavioral interventions designed to enhance the effects of {"}good{"} stress, minimize the effects of {"}bad{"} stress, and maximally promote health and healing.",
keywords = "Endocrinology/Hormones, Exercise, Immune cell trafficking, Neuro-Endocrine-Immunology, Psycho-Neuro-Immunology, Psychological/physical/physiological stress, Stress-reduction interventions",
author = "Firdaus Dhabhar",
year = "2014",
month = "1",
day = "1",
doi = "10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "58",
pages = "193--210",
journal = "Immunologic Research",
issn = "0257-277X",
publisher = "Humana Press",
number = "2-3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Effects of stress on immune function

T2 - The good, the bad, and the beautiful

AU - Dhabhar, Firdaus

PY - 2014/1/1

Y1 - 2014/1/1

N2 - Although the concept of stress has earned a bad reputation, it is important to recognize that the adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight. While long-term stress is generally harmful, shortterm stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges. This review discusses the immune effects of biological stress responses that can be induced by psychological, physiological, or physical (including exercise) stressors. We have proposed that short-term stress is one of the nature's fundamental but under-appreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection. Short-term (i.e., lasting for minutes to hours) stress experienced during immune activation enhances innate/primary and adaptive/secondary immune responses. Mechanisms of immuno-enhancement include changes in dendritic cell, neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte trafficking, maturation, and function as well as local and systemic production of cytokines. In contrast, long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses by altering the Type 1-Type 2 cytokine balance, inducing low-grade chronic inflammation, and suppressing numbers, trafficking, and function of immunoprotective cells. Chronic stress may also increase susceptibility to some types of cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells and increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell function. Here, we classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss "good" versus "bad" effects of stress on health. Thus, short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective (wound healing, vaccination, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or immuno-pathological (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune) responses. In contrast, chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses. Studies such as the ones discussed here could provide mechanistic targets and conceptual frameworks for pharmacological and/or biobehavioral interventions designed to enhance the effects of "good" stress, minimize the effects of "bad" stress, and maximally promote health and healing.

AB - Although the concept of stress has earned a bad reputation, it is important to recognize that the adaptive purpose of a physiological stress response is to promote survival during fight or flight. While long-term stress is generally harmful, shortterm stress can be protective as it prepares the organism to deal with challenges. This review discusses the immune effects of biological stress responses that can be induced by psychological, physiological, or physical (including exercise) stressors. We have proposed that short-term stress is one of the nature's fundamental but under-appreciated survival mechanisms that could be clinically harnessed to enhance immunoprotection. Short-term (i.e., lasting for minutes to hours) stress experienced during immune activation enhances innate/primary and adaptive/secondary immune responses. Mechanisms of immuno-enhancement include changes in dendritic cell, neutrophil, macrophage, and lymphocyte trafficking, maturation, and function as well as local and systemic production of cytokines. In contrast, long-term stress suppresses or dysregulates innate and adaptive immune responses by altering the Type 1-Type 2 cytokine balance, inducing low-grade chronic inflammation, and suppressing numbers, trafficking, and function of immunoprotective cells. Chronic stress may also increase susceptibility to some types of cancer by suppressing Type 1 cytokines and protective T cells and increasing regulatory/suppressor T cell function. Here, we classify immune responses as being protective, pathological, or regulatory, and discuss "good" versus "bad" effects of stress on health. Thus, short-term stress can enhance the acquisition and/or expression of immunoprotective (wound healing, vaccination, anti-infectious agent, anti-tumor) or immuno-pathological (pro-inflammatory, autoimmune) responses. In contrast, chronic stress can suppress protective immune responses and/or exacerbate pathological immune responses. Studies such as the ones discussed here could provide mechanistic targets and conceptual frameworks for pharmacological and/or biobehavioral interventions designed to enhance the effects of "good" stress, minimize the effects of "bad" stress, and maximally promote health and healing.

KW - Endocrinology/Hormones

KW - Exercise

KW - Immune cell trafficking

KW - Neuro-Endocrine-Immunology

KW - Psycho-Neuro-Immunology

KW - Psychological/physical/physiological stress

KW - Stress-reduction interventions

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84901430088&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84901430088&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0

DO - 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0

M3 - Review article

C2 - 24798553

AN - SCOPUS:84901430088

VL - 58

SP - 193

EP - 210

JO - Immunologic Research

JF - Immunologic Research

SN - 0257-277X

IS - 2-3

ER -