By  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

A new study reveals greater risks for infection from cold and influenza viruses for people with “psychosocial vulnerabilities”, which can be applied to risks with COVID 19 (article available from  This expands on a recent blog about strengthening our immune system.

This researcher, Sheldon Cohen, has been studying predictive factors in who becomes ill when they are exposed to a virus.  This work has been ongoing for 35 years.

Subjects were screened for “good health”, along with other variables of psychosocial interest.  They were then exposed to a virus for either a cold or influenza that would cause a mild upper respiratory illness.  Quarantined for 5-6 days, they were then monitored for infection and symptoms. Of those exposed, 75-80% were infected, while 25-40% became ill.

Three factors were associated with increased risk of respiratory illness: 

  • Smoking
  • Insufficient levels of vitamin C
  • Chronic psychological stress

Factors associated with decreased risk were:

  • Social networking
  • Social support
  • Physical activity
  • Sleep of adequate quantity and quality
  • Moderate alcohol intake

While these findings were not with the COVID 19 virus itself, they are true for a variety of viruses.  The process of how these factors impact vulnerability to colds and influenza is likely to be similar to our vulnerability to COVID 19. 

All of these factors are social, behavioral, and psychological.  Quality psychotherapy can help to reduce the risk factors and increase the beneficial factors.

Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice in Torrance, CA. A member of the Independent Psychotherapy Network, he can be reached at 310  539-2772 or  During the COVID 19 pandemic, telehealth sessions are being offered.

Copyright 2020 by  Alan M. Solomon, Ph.D.

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