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Unformatted text preview: PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE Research Article VOL. 14, NO. 5, SEPTEMBER 2003 Copyright 2003 American Psychological Society 389 SOCIABILITY AND SUSCEPTIBILITY TO THE COMMON COLD Sheldon Cohen, 1 William J. Doyle, 2 Ronald Turner, 3 Cuneyt M. Alper, 2 and David P. Skoner 2 1 Carnegie Mellon University, 2 University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, and 3 University of Virginia Health Sciences Center Abstract There is considerable evidence that social relationships can influence health, but only limited evidence on the health effects of the personality characteristics that are thought to mold peoples so- cial lives. We asked whether sociability predicts resistance to infec- tious disease and whether this relationship is attributable to the quality and quantity of social interactions and relationships. Three hundred thirty-four volunteers completed questionnaires assessing their sociability, social networks, and social supports, and six evening interviews assessing daily interactions. They were subsequently ex- posed to a virus that causes a common cold and monitored to see who developed verifiable illness. Increased sociability was associated in a linear fashion with a decreased probability of developing a cold. Al- though sociability was associated with more and higher-quality social interactions, it predicted disease susceptibility independently of these variables. The association between sociability and disease was also independent of baseline immunity (virus-specific antibody), demo- graphics, emotional styles, stress hormones, and health practices. There has been much recent emphasis on the role of social rela- tionships in health (e.g., Cohen, Gottlieb, & Underwood, 2000; Uchino, Cacioppo, & Kiecolt-Glaser, 1996). The structure of peoples social networks (Brissette, Cohen, & Seeman, 2000), the support they receive from others (Helgeson & Gottlieb, 2000; Wills & Shinar, 2000), and the quality and quantity of their social interactions (Kiecolt-Glaser & Newton, 2001; Reis & Collins, 2000) have all been identified as potential predictors of their health and well-being. Al- though these various indicators of peoples social lives are to some ex- tent molded by their personalities, there has been much less interest in the role of socially relevant dispositions in health. This article focuses on sociability, a disposition that is generally recognized as a determinant of quality and quantity of social interac- tion. We define sociability as the quality of seeking others and being agreeable (Liebert & Spiegler, 1994; Reber, 1985). We assume that so- ciability plays a role in the development and maintenance of social networks, intimate relationships, and social supports. If our assump- tion is correct, one would expect that more sociable people would be healthier than less sociable people. This could occur because better and closer relationships might increase positive and decrease negative affect, promote positive health practices, help regulate health-relevant...
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