Social stress, immune functions and disease in rodents

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173 Scopus citations


The link between social factors, stress and health has been the focus of many interdisciplinary studies mostly because: (i) animals, including humans, often live in societies; (ii) positive and negative social relationships affect disease and well being; (iii) physiological alterations, which parallel social interactions also modulate immune and neuroendocrine functions. This review will focus on studies conducted on laboratory and wild rodents where social factors such as dyadic interactions, individual housing and differential group housing were investigated. The results obtained allow one to conclude that social factors in rodents are causally linked with immune disorders/disease susceptibility. In particular, lower lymphocyte proliferation and antigen-specific-IgG, granulocytosis and lymphopenia, as well as higher tumor induction and progression, are reliably associated with negative social events. Finally, due to the increasing utilization of social stress-based animal models the reliability of the concept of "social stress" and its evolutionary context are re-evaluated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)28-49
Number of pages22
JournalFrontiers in Neuroendocrinology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 2007

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Thanks are due to: Harald Engler, Paola Palanza, Stefano Parmigiani, and Volker Stefanski for comments which greatly improved the manuscript; Martin Kavaliers and Elena Choleris for critical reading and language revision. In part supported by the University of Parma.


  • Cellular immunity
  • Dominance
  • Evolution
  • Group housing
  • Humoral immunity
  • Isolation
  • Mice
  • Parasite
  • Rats
  • Social stress
  • Subordination
  • Tumor
  • Virus


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