16 Stress, Coping, and Immune Function

Behavioral Neuroscience

  1. Angela Liegey Dougall PhD1,
  2. Minhnoi C. Wroble Biglan PhD2,
  3. Jeffrey N. Swanson PhD1,
  4. Andrew Baum PhD1

Published Online: 26 SEP 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781118133880.hop203016

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition

How to Cite

Dougall, A. L., Wroble Biglan, M. C., Swanson, J. N. and Baum, A. 2012. Stress, Coping, and Immune Function. Handbook of Psychology, Second Edition. 3:16.

Author Information

  1. 1

    University of Texas, Department of Psychology, Arlington, Texas, USA

  2. 2

    Pennsylvania State University, Department of Psychology, Beaver, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 26 SEP 2012


Stress is a fundamental process, characterizing people's interactions with their environments and responses to challenge. Appraisals of threatening or harmful challenges motivate people to take action to either eliminate these stressors or protect themselves from the stressor's negative impact. These appraisals and coping efforts elicit a series of specific and nonspecific cognitive, behavioral, and physiological responses. Stress responses, in turn, promote adaptation by mobilizing catabolic energies that support coping efforts. One response system that has received considerable attention is the immune system because of its role in the detection and elimination of pathogenic agents and its apparent sensitivity to stress hormones. Repeated or protracted exposures to stress appear to suppress immune system functioning and may contribute to increased vulnerability to infection and disease. Alterations in other stress response pathways appear to provide mechanisms through which many stress-related immune changes occur. By decreasing aspects of cognitive, behavioral, and physiological responding, stress reduction interventions are used to facilitate adaptation and have important implications for decreasing vulnerability to disease processes. Continued characterization of the beneficial as well as harmful effects of stress will improve our ability to identify modifiable risk factors (e.g., lifestyle, appraisal, coping, and social resources) for the negative consequences of stress and to promote adaptation.


  • stress;
  • coping;
  • immunity;
  • psychoneuroimmunology;
  • health