Negative Emotions:  Research Article

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Immune Function in Unemployed Women

CITATION:  Arnetz, B. B. et al. (1987) Immune Function in Unemployed Women. Psychosomatic Medicine Vol. 49, No. 1.

ABSTRACT:  Immunologic effects of unemployment were prospectively studied in women over a period of 8 months. Subjects were classified into three groups depending on their employment history, and were studied concomitantly. Group A consisted of unemployed women who were recipients of traditional support from the Swedish welfare state. Group B was composed of unemployed women who were given the opportunity to participate in a psychosocial program, in addition to receiving the traditional unemployment benefits received by group A. Group C, the control, consisted of securely employed women. Phytohemagglutinin (PHA) reactivity of lymphocytes decreased significantly in both groups of unemployed women after 9 months of unemployment. The psychosocial program did not counteract this decrease. Reactivity to purified protein derivative (PPD) of tuberculin also decreased significantly in the unemployed subjects. No changes were observed in the securely employed women. There were no significant differences among the groups in T cell subpopulations, B cells, and serum cortisol. The data suggest that some aspects of the immune system may be altered at a specific time period following the loss of work. Further studies are needed to see if this effect is only temporary or more long lasting.


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