The Interpersonally Sensitive Disposition and Health: An Integrative Review

TitleThe Interpersonally Sensitive Disposition and Health: An Integrative Review
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsMarin T.J, Miller G.E
JournalPsychological Bulletin
Date PublishedSep
Type of ArticleReview
ISBN Number0033-2909
Accession NumberWOS:000323688000001
Keywordsall-cause mortality, autonomic nervous-system, coronary-heart-disease, d, immunodeficiency, interpersonal sensitivity, introversion, morbidity, mortality, personality, pituitary-adrenal axis, psychosocial risk-factors, quality-of-life, rejection sensitivity, stressful life events, virus-disease

This article reviews studies that have examined the association between constructs related to interpersonal sensitivity (IS) and morbidity and mortality from major medical illnesses. We define IS as a stable trait characterized by ongoing concerns about negative social evaluation. This disposition makes people vigilant for as well as sensitive to others' evaluations of them. To avoid negative social evaluation, they adopt defensive behaviors such as submission and inhibition. Aspects of IS are captured by various constructs, including introversion, rejection sensitivity, social inhibition, social anxiety, and submissiveness. The review includes 76 long-term prospective studies across 4 outcome categories, namely, infectious disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and all-cause mortality. Three general conclusions are established. First, IS individuals are at increased risk of infectious diseases and possibly CVD, but not cancer and not all-cause mortality. Second, the positive studies provide evidence that IS temporally precedes disease, and go a long way toward ruling out the most plausible alternative explanations based on confounders, supporting a tentative causal interpretation of the data. However, unmeasured potential confounders make it impossible to be certain about whether IS drives the effects on mortality and morbidity. Third, the effects of introversion are accentuated and may only become apparent in contexts that activate social-evaluative concerns (e.g., exposure to early life residential mobility, living with the stigma of human immunodeficiency virus). Findings are discussed in regard to potential psychosocial and psychobiological mechanisms as well as implications for future work concerning IS and health.