Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

A comparison of changes in secretory immunoglobulin A following a stress-inducing and stress-reducing task

Document Type


Publication Date



Research suggests that the immune system may be adversely affected by chronic stress. There is some evidence that relaxation-based practices may effect an increase in immune functioning, but recent findings suggest that acute stress may lead to similar increases. Given this, we used a counterbalanced within-subjects design to directly compare the effects of a stressful mental arithmetic task and a relaxation-based task on secretory immunoglobulin A (S-IgA). Thirty participants were seen in small groups of two or three where they were administered both a mental arithmetic (stress) task and a relaxing hypnosis task. Four-minute timed saliva samples were obtained immediately following the two experimental tasks and following two baseline periods. Results demonstrated that, compared with baseline, S-IgA concentration and secretion rate were significantly higher following both the relaxation-based task and stress task. Additionally, our data showed that the increases were short-lived, decreasing significantly within 8 min following the completion of each task. Our results indicate that both stress-reducing and stress-inducing tasks can increase S-IgA levels, and these results are discussed with reference to the potential differential mechanisms and clinical significance of such changes.


Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Publication Title

Stress and Health