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June 3, 2020

Psychosocial Factors in Disease and Treatment—A Call for the Biopsychosocial Model

Author Affiliations
  • 1Institute of Psychosocial Medicine and Psychotherapy, Jena University Hospital, Friedrich-Schiller University, Jena, Germany
  • 2Research Group “Social Stress and Family Health,” Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
  • 3Research Group “Pain Perception,” Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Leipzig, Germany
JAMA Psychiatry. 2020;77(10):996-997. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.0364

Taking a biopsychosocial approach to health care is certainly not new.1,2 However, it is not the norm, either. An important article in this issue of JAMA Psychiatry reminds us why such an approach is needed. Using meta-analytic methods, Shields et al3 demonstrate the potential of psychosocial interventions to affect the immune system, a classically biological domain involved in 50% of deaths worldwide.4 The authors show that interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy are not only positively associated with immune parameters such as proinflammatory cytokines and immune cell counts in patients with physical health conditions but actually may rival pharmacological treatment options in terms of effectiveness. To further emphasize the importance of a biopsychosocial approach, we highlight the potential role of chronic psychosocial stress in immune-mediated morbidity and death. The implications of the study by Shields et al3 for clinical practice, with a special focus on the group therapeutic setting, will be discussed.

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