My interview with Monte discussed this and Adam also did a guest post.
Here is a new study which looks at how stress can make us sick.
ABSTRACT—How do stressful events and negative emotions influence the immune system, and how big are the effects? This broad question has been intensely interesting to psychoneuroimmunology researchers over the last 3 decades. Many promising lines of work underscore the reasons why this question is still so important and pivotal to understanding and other advances. New multidisciplinary permutations provide fresh vistas and emphasize the importance of training psychologists more broadly so that they will be central and essential players in the advancement of biomedical science.I've got hold of the full article and it is interesting stuff. Eureka makes some comments:
The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) investigates how stress and negative emotions (such as depression and anxiety) affect our health. Over the past 30 years, researchers in this field have uncovered a number of ways that stress adversely affects our health, and specifically, how stress can damage our immune system. Numerous studies have shown that stressed individuals show weaker immune responses to vaccines, and as Kiecolt-Glaser observes, "The evidence that stress and distress impair vaccine responses has obvious public health relevance because infectious diseases can be so deadly." Stress and depression have been shown to increase the risk of getting infections and also result in delayed wound healing.
Inflammation is the body's way of removing harmful stimuli and also starts the process of healing, via release of a variety of chemicals known as proinflammatory cytokines (e.g., interleukin-6). However, too much inflammation can be damaging and has been implicated in the development of many age-related diseases, including Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's disease, arthritis, and Type II diabetes. Negative emotions and psychological stressors increase the production of proinflammatory cytokines. A recent study revealed that men and women who serve as caregivers to spouses with dementia (and thus are under constant stress) have a four times larger annual rate of increase in serum interleukin-6 levels compared to individuals without caregiving responsibilities.