College of Psychology: Faculty Articles

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Mindfulness, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Immune Function, Natural Killer Cells, Mindfulness and Cancer, Mindfulness and HIV

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Cancer and Clinical Oncology








Objective: Chronic stress is widespread, and is detrimental to immune functioning and to overall physical and emotional health. These effects may be potentiated in patients with chronic illness, as high levels of chronic stress are common in this population. Numerous studies support the efficacy of mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) in improving psychological functioning. If a strong relationship is found between MBSR and immune function, then MBSR may be implemented as a strategy to improve immune functioning and overall well-being.

Methods: In the present review paper, the relationship between MBSR and immune function is evaluated. Empirical studies measuring immune markers as they relate to a standard MBSR intervention were reviewed. Relevant articles primarily involved patients with cancer or HIV. Therefore, the associations of immune measures with psychological distress are discussed, with an emphasis on patients with these conditions. A psychoneuroimmunological (PNI) framework was utilized to propose a mechanism for the relationship between MBSR and immune function.

Results: Overall, the findings support a positive relationship between MBSR intervention and beneficial immunological outcomes. Variability in immune measures assessed across studies precludes pooling data to develop more conclusive results.

Conclusions: MBSR has been shown to consistently improve emotional functioning and quality of life, and these effects appear to facilitate immune function.


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