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Brain Behav Immun. 2006 May;20(3):279-89. Epub 2005 Sep 27.

Bereavement and marriage are associated with antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly.

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  • 1School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, University of Birmingham, UK.


Stressful life events exposure including bereavement, an event commonly experienced by elderly people, social support, marital status, and satisfaction were examined in relation to antibody response to the annual trivalent influenza vaccination in an elderly community sample (N=184). Antibody response was assessed at baseline, and at 1 and 12 months following vaccination. Taking into account baseline antibody titer, overall life events exposure and social support were not associated with response to any of the influenza strains. However, bereavement in the year prior to vaccination was negatively associated with the 1-month response to the A/Panama and B/Shangdong strains. Being married and having higher marital satisfaction was also associated with higher peak responses to the A/Panama influenza strain at 1 month. The positive association between marital satisfaction and A/Panama response was particularly evident in the younger half of the married sample. These associations largely withstood adjustment for potential confounders. Thus, in the elderly, peak antibody response was associated with bereavement and marriage, and not the more general factors, life events and social support, related to antibody response in student samples. This suggests the importance of taking a life course approach to examining relationships between psychosocial factors and immunity, and that interventions to modify the impact of these factors should address those most salient for each age group.

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