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Brain Behav Immun. 2003 Aug;17(4):286-95.

Socioeconomic status, C-reactive protein, immune factors, and responses to acute mental stress.

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Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK.


Low socioeconomic status (SES) is associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease and immune-related disorders. We hypothesised that SES would be inversely associated with the acute phase reactant C-reactive protein (CRP) and with circulating lymphocyte levels, and that lymphocyte responses to acute psychological stress would also vary with SES. CRP was obtained from 226, and lymphocyte counts from 127 healthy volunteers from the Whitehall II cohort, and SES was defined primarily by grade of employment. CRP concentration was greater in lower compared with higher SES participants (1.18+/-0.75 vs. 0.75+/-0.8 mg/l,p=.002) independently of sex, age, body mass, waist/hip ratio, smoking, alcohol, and season of the year. Similar differences were evident when SES was defined by income and educational attainment. Higher SES was also associated with lower total lymphocyte (p=.023), T-lymphocyte (p=.024) and natural killer (NK) cell counts (p=.006). Total, T- and B-lymphocyte, and NK cell counts increased with stress, but immune stress reactivity did not vary with SES. Post-stress recovery was delayed in women compared with men. The results suggest that moderate inflammation and immune activation may be processes through which lower SES increases disease risk.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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