Psychosocial correlates of immune responsiveness and illness episodes in us air force academy cadets undergoing basic cadet training

David J. Lee, Richard T. Meehan, Christine Robinson, Morey L. Smith, Thomas R. Mabry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This study examined psychosocial correlates of immune function and illness in 89 male first-year US Air Force Academy cadets. A psychosocial questionnaire was administered to cadets prior to their arrival at the academy and was readministered during cadet orientation and during the stressful environment of Basic Cadet Training (BCT). Immune responsiveness was analyzed by PHA-, PMA-, or anti-CD3-stimulated thymidine uptake in mononuclear leucocytes. Illness episodes were assessed via medical chart review and self-reported symptoms. There were significant increases in distress levels as cadets entered BCT. No psychosocial measure assessed prior to arrival at the academy predicted level of PHA-, PMA-, and anti-CD3-stimulated thymidine uptake or risk of illness. However, hostility levels reported during BCT predicted risk of illness in the four weeks following psychosocial assessment (odds ratio = 7.1; 95% confidence interval: 1.4-36.1). Elevated response to environmental stressors and lower well-being levels also predicted impending illness, but only in the cohort of cadets who had not contracted food poisoning prior to assessment during BCT (OR = 9.3, CI = 1.9-46.7; OR = 0.09, CI = 0.02-0.53). These results suggest that self-report measures of hostility, response to environmental stressors and well-being may be useful predictors of impending illness episodes in males encountering high stress environments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)445-457
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 1995


  • Hostility
  • Influenza
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Stress
  • Upper respiratory infection
  • Well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Psychology(all)


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