Objectives. The primary aim of this study was to examine the role of life-events in the prediction of naturally occurring episodes of upper respiratory tract illness (mainly reported as common colds).
Design. The study was prospective, involving a variable follow-up period which averaged six and a half weeks.
Methods. Measures of life-events (Sarason LES), stress experience, and personality (EPQ-R) were obtained for a sample of 35 participants, who were then followed up for incidence of Upper Respiratory Tract Illness (URTI).
Results. Positive but not negative life-events were shown strongly to predict subsequent incidence of URTI. Reports of recent stress experience and stress proneness were not predictive, nor were personality measures. Positive LES was shown to be predictive independent of personality measures, and health-related behaviour reports concerned with smoking, alcohol consumption and normal diet. Self-reports of URTI and symptom reporting were for the first five days of the study supplemented with objective body temperature readings. Temperature measures correlated positively and significantly with symptom and URTI reporting.
Conclusions. Although some of the principal effect may reflect individual differences in exposure to infectious agents, host factors affecting symptomatic expression may also be involved, in ways that are currently not understood.