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July 23, 1982

Of mind and morbidity: can stress and grief depress immunity?

JAMA. 1982;248(4):405-407. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330040005003

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"Do you remember—in one of Woody Allen's movies—when he says, 'I don't get depressed. I grow a tumor instead.'?

"This shows that the studies on personality, stress, and cancer, although still definitely not conclusive, have already made their way into the common consciousness," says Joan Borysenko, PhD, instructor of medicine, Division of Behavioral Medicine, Beth Israel Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

Once relegated mainly to faith healers and practitioners of folk medicine, the idea that the conscious mind can influence the onset and outcome of a variety of diseases now is accepted by many medical and lay persons. In fact, the quest to discern the physiological mechanisms behind this poorly understood relationship has given birth to a hybrid discipline—psychoneuroimmunology—that was the topic of a recent meeting in New York City on mind and immunity as well as of several presentations at the American Psychosomatic Society meeting in Denver.