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Psychosom Med. 2012 Nov-Dec;74(9):982-7. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31826fb7d2. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Effects of massage on antibody responses after hepatitis B vaccination.

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Departments of Psychological Medicine, University of Auckland, New Zealand.



The aim of this study was to examine whether participation in a 4-week massage intervention is associated with reduced distress and enhanced antibody responses after hepatitis B vaccine in students embarking on academic examinations.


Seventy medical student volunteers (36 women, 34 men) were randomly assigned to intervention or control groups. Baseline assessments were made of distress, health behaviors, and prevaccination antibodies to hepatitis B surface antigen. Intervention participants received weekly 45-minute massages before an examination period. At the end of the intervention and 1 week before commencing the examination period, all participants received an intramuscular hepatitis B vaccination and repeated the assessments completed at baseline. Serum antibody responses to hepatitis B surface antigen were measured at 2 and 6 weeks postvaccination.


Examinations were associated with increased distress in both the massage and the control groups: perceived stress (F(1,67) = 10.64, p = .002), anxiety (F(1,67) = 15.72, p < .001) and negative affect (F(1,66) = 5.80, p = .019); these increases did not differ between the massage and the control groups. Furthermore, massage was associated with lower levels of antibody to hepatitis B surface antigen after vaccination at both time points (F(1,63) = 6.29, p = .015).


These findings indicate that a brief massage intervention did not attenuate emotional distress during an examination period but did result in lowered antibody responses to vaccination. Further research is required to establish whether these effects were attributable to the nature of intervention (i.e., duration and type of massage) and/or its limited relevance to a healthy population confronting a relatively acute stressor such as examinations.

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