Positive and Negative Affect and Salivary Markers of Inflammation Among Young Adults

Danica C. Slavish, Dusti R. Jones, Joshua M. Smyth, Christopher G. Engeland, Sunmi Song, Nolan M. McCormick, Jennifer E. Graham-Engeland

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16 Scopus citations


Background: Emerging evidence suggests that higher circulating levels of inflammatory biomarkers in blood are associated with higher negative affect (NA) and lower positive affect (PA). To our knowledge, the unique associations between NA and PA in daily life and salivary biomarkers of inflammation have not been examined. This study examined these associations in young adults. Methods: Measures of NA and PA were created from aggregated daily measures of affect (morning and evening ratings averaged across 14 days). We investigated associations between these measures and salivary C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin (IL)-6 in a sample of 108 young adults (60% female, mean age = 20.45 ± 1.47), a subset of whom had self-reported chronic back pain (n = 49). CRP and IL-6 were determined from saliva obtained at the end of the daily diary period. Results: After covarying for age, gender, body mass index, chronic pain status, salivary flow rate, and NA, higher PA was associated with lower salivary CRP (β = − 0.02, 95% CI (− 0.03, − 0.00) sr2 =.06, p =.01) but not IL-6; removing NA from this model did not change results. In a model with the same covariates (and PA), NA was not significantly related to CRP or IL-6. Chronic back pain status and gender did not moderate results. Conclusions: Findings suggest that higher PA may be associated with lower salivary CRP in young adults, even after accounting for NA and demographic characteristics. Findings highlight the utility of assessing emotional states in relation to salivary markers of inflammation in future biobehavioral research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)282-293
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology


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