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The psychology of wound healing

Broadbent, Elizabeth; Koschwanez, Heidi E.

Current Opinion in Psychiatry: March 2012 - Volume 25 - Issue 2 - p 135–140
doi: 10.1097/YCO.0b013e32834e1424
BEHAVIOURAL MEDICINE: Edited by Mohan Isaac and Winfried Rief

Purpose of review Research into the effects of psychological factors on wound healing represents an ideal research model for psychoneuroimmunology, as both the impact on clinically relevant health outcomes and the underlying biological mechanisms can be examined. Mounting interest in this topic from biological scientists, psychologists, and medical specialists has resulted in new findings that are discussed in this review.

Recent findings Known psychological influences on wound healing include stress as well as coping styles, positive affect, environmental enrichment, and social support. Research has highlighted the roles of oxytocin, vasopressin, epinephrine, cortisol, and leukocyte redistribution in wound healing. Clinical significance has been demonstrated by a growing number of studies in patient populations. Furthermore, pragmatic interventions with clinical samples have demonstrated clear benefits of psychological interventions on wound healing.

Summary Recent studies add to growing evidence that psychology impacts wound repair, and highlight in particular the positive role of social support on modulating the negative effects of stress. The first few studies to demonstrate that psychological interventions can improve healing in clinical populations are exciting developments. New knowledge of psychobiological mechanisms provides opportunities to develop further interventions to improve health outcomes.

Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand

Correspondence to Elizabeth Broadbent, Department of Psychological Medicine, The University of Auckland, Private Bag 92019, Auckland, New Zealand. Tel: +64 9 373 7599 x86756; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.