The capacity for an individual to develop and flourish is deeply influenced by immediate social surroundings – including their opportunity to engage positively with family members, friends or colleagues, and earn a living for themselves and their families – and also by the socioeconomic circumstances in which said individual find himself/herself. Restricted or lost opportunities to gain an education and income are especially pertinent socio-economic factors.
Psychoneuroimmunology is defined as the examination of the interactions among psychological, behavioral, and social factors with immunological and neuroendocrine outcomes. It is now well established that psychological factors, especially chronic stress, can lead to impairments in immune system function in both the young and older adults. In several studies of older adults, those who are providing care for a relative with dementia report high levels of stress and exhibit significant impairments in immune system functioning when compared with non-caregivers. Stress-induced changes in the immune system may affect a number of outcomes, including slowing the wound healing process and increasing susceptibility to infections.