The Effect of Perceived Stress on Epstein-Barr Virus Antibody Titers in Appalachian Ohio Women

Neuroimmunomodulation. 2017;24(2):67-73. doi: 10.1159/000478658. Epub 2017 Sep 22.


Objective: The Appalachian population suffers a disparate burden of chronic stress leading to high perceived stress. The study aim was to determine the association between perceived stress and Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) antibody titers, along with the impact of perceived social support, Appalachian self-identify, and health behaviors.

Methods: Serum EBV VCA-IgG antibody titer levels from 169 female Appalachian residents (aged 18-26 years) were examined. Perceived stress, perceived social support, Appalachian self-identity, and health behaviors were assessed via self-administered questionnaires.

Results: There were 169 of 185 women positive for EBV. Among these women, the median EBV antibody titer level was 404 U/mL (range 101-6,464), and the overall geometric mean was 563.2 (95% CI 486.6-651.9). For a 1-point increase in perceived stress, the EBV antibody titer increased by 1.92% (95% CI 0.04-3.76%). For every point increase in perceived social support, the EBV antibody titer decreased by 1.00% (95% CI 0.06-1.98%). Perceived stress was significantly associated with sleep quality, BMI, and current smoking status, but not with binge-drinking, drug use, or Appalachian self-identity. No mediating effects of sleep quality, BMI, binge-drinking, current drug use, or >4 sexual partners were observed in the relationship between perceived stress and EBV titer level.

Conclusion: Young Appalachian women reported high levels of perceived stress that were significantly associated with higher EBV titers. Higher perceived social support was associated with lower EBV titers. Health behaviors and Appalachian self-identity did not impact the relationship between perceived stress and EBV titers.

Keywords: Appalachia region; Epstein-Barr virus; Health behavior; Stress, physiological; Vaccination.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / blood*
  • Appalachian Region
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / blood
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Infections / immunology*
  • Female
  • Herpesvirus 4, Human
  • Humans
  • Ohio
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / blood
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Viral