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Psychol Aging. 2012 Dec;27(4):892-902. doi: 10.1037/a0029093. Epub 2012 Jun 18.

Psychosocial resources, aging, and natural killer cell terminal maturity.

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Department of Psychology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 40506-0044, USA.


Psychosocial factors may influence aspects of immunological aging. The present study tested the hypothesis that psychosocial resources correlate with the expression of the cell surface maker CD57 on natural killer (NK) immune cells. CD57 is a marker of terminal maturation and senescence in this cell subset. The study further tested the relative contribution of specific resources in the social, psychological, financial, and status-skill domains, given the potential differential value of different resources for younger and older adults, and the contribution of relative versus absolute resources. Younger (n = 38) and older (n = 34) women completed measures of relative and absolute resources and had blood drawn. Examined both between groups and within the older women, older age and fewer total relative resources were associated with more CD57 expression on NK cells. One SD in resources was the equivalent of 5 years of aging among the older women. Among the specific resource types, a preponderance of financial resources, both relative and absolute, was associated with less CD57 expression on NK cells, and these relationships did not significantly vary between younger and older women. There was no evidence that depressive symptoms mediated the effects of resources on CD57 expression on NK cells. These findings provide support for the hypothesis that the sense that one has substantial resources, particularly with regard to finances and possessions, may retard age-associated aspects of the microenvironment in which NK cells develop and mature, independent of effects on distress, and this process may begin in younger adulthood.

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