INTRODUCTION: Our lives tend to be centered around close relationships with significant others, family, and friends. It is increasingly apparent that the existence and quality of such relationships and the support they provide have a strong impact not only on our psychological well-being (Glenn and Weaver, 1981) but also our physical health. A number of prospective studies have reported remarkably similar patterns of increasing risk for all-cause mortality with a decreasing number of social ties, even after controlling for sociodemographic characteristics and health (e.g.. Berkman and Syme, 1979; House et al., 1982; Kaplan et al., 1988). The existence and quality of key close relationships, such as marriage, are also predictive of morbidity and mortality from a range of chronic and acute conditions (Johnson et al., 2000; Kiecolt-Glaser and Newton, 2001; Verbrugge, 1979). One key pathway underlying the association between social relationships and health outcomes appears to be changes in immune function (Kiecolt-Glaser, 1999), an area of research which holds great promise for further clarifying the role of close relationships and health and which will be the focus of this chapter.
CITATION: Graham, J. E., Christian, L. M., & Kiecolt-Glaser, J. K. (2006). Close relationships and immunity. In R. Ader (Ed.), Psychoneuroimmunology, 4th ed. Burlington, MA: Elsevier, Inc.