Optimism Boosts the Immune System

LOUISVILLE, Ky., March 27 (UPI) — Feeling better about the future — being optimistic — might boost the immune system, U.S. researchers suggest.

Psychological scientists Suzanne Segerstrom of the University of Kentucky and Sandra Sephton of the University of Louisville recruited first-year law students by sending them a packet during the summer before classes started. The 124 students who participated in the research were studied five times over six months.

Then they were injected with material that should summon an immune response and two days later, they came back to have the injection site measured. A larger bump in the skin means a stronger immune response. This test only measured the strength of the part that is responsible for fighting viral infections and some bacterial infections, the researchers said.

The students’ general outlook on life — whether they had an optimistic disposition — didn’t account for the differences in immune responses between students. But as each student’s expectations about law school waxed and waned, their immune response followed along, the study said. At more optimistic times, they’d have bigger immune responses; at a more pessimistic time, a more sluggish immune response, the researchers said.

The study is published in the journal Psychological Science.

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