Objectives—This study addresses methodological and theoretical questions about the association between affect and physical health. Specifically, we examine the role of affect variability and its interaction with mean levels of affect to predict antibody (Ab) levels in response to an influenza vaccination.
Methods—Participants (N = 83) received the vaccination and completed daily diary measures of affect four times a day for 13 days. At one and four months post-vaccination, blood was collected from the participants to assess Ab levels.
Results—Findings indicate that affect variability and its interaction with mean levels of affect predict an individual’s immune response. Those high in mean positive affect (PA) who had more PA variability were more likely to have a lower Ab response in comparison to those who had high mean PA and less PA variability. Although it did not interact with mean negative affect (NA), NA variability on its own was associated with Ab response, whereby those with less NA variability mounted a more robust immune response.
Conclusion—Affect variability is related to immune response to an influenza vaccination and, in some cases, interacts with mean levels of affect. These oscillations in affective experiences are critical to consider in order to unpack the intricacies of how affect influences health. These findings suggest that future researchers should consider the important role of affect variability on physical health-relevant outcomes as well as examine the moderating effect of mean affect levels.
Jenkins, B. N., Hunter, J. F., Cross, M. P., Acevedo, A. M., & Pressman, S. D. (2018). When is affect variability bad for health? The association between affect variability and immune response to the influenza vaccination. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 104, 41–47. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychores.2017.11.002
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