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J Infect Dis. 1998 Nov;178 Suppl 1:S67-70.

Racial and psychosocial risk factors for herpes zoster in the elderly.

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Department of Psychiatry and Sociology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


The effects of black race and psychologic stress on the risk of acquiring herpes zoster in late life were examined. Subjects were participants of a stratified probability sample of community-dwelling persons > or = 65 years old. A comprehensive health survey was administered in 1986-1987 (P1), 1989-1990 (P2), and 1992-1994 (P3). Incident cases of zoster between P1 and P2 and P2 and P3 served as the dependent variables. Hypothesis-testing variables included race, negative life events, and measures of social support. Control variables included age, sex, education, cancer, other chronic diseases, hospitalization, activities of daily living, self-rated health, depression, and cigarette smoking. From P1 to P2, 1.4% of black and 3.4% of white subjects developed zoster (P < .001). From P2 to P3, 2.9% of black and 7.5% of white subjects developed zoster (P < .001). After controlling for variables, black subjects were significantly less likely to develop zoster than were white subjects (adjusted odds ratio, 0.37; 95% confidence interval, 0.26, 0.53; P = .0001). Most measures of stress were not significantly related to zoster; however, study limitations preclude definitive conclusions.

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