Socioeconomic status and immune aging in older US adults in the health and retirement study

Biodemography Soc Biol. 2022 Jul-Dec;67(3-4):187-202. doi: 10.1080/19485565.2022.2149465. Epub 2022 Dec 6.


Socioeconomic and demographic factors including educational attainment, race and ethnicity, and childhood socioeconomic status (SES) are powerful predictors of inequalities in aging, morbidity, and mortality. Immune aging, including accumulation of late-differentiated, senescent-like lymphocytes and lower levels of naïve lymphocytes, may play a role in the development of the age-related health inequalities. This study used nationally representative data from more than 9,000 US adults from the Health and Retirement Study to investigate associations between educational attainment, race and ethnicity, and childhood SES and lymphocyte percentages. Respondents with lower educational attainment, Hispanic adults, and those who had a parent with less than a high school education had lymphocyte percentages consistent with more immune aging compared to those with greater educational attainment, non-Hispanic White adults, and respondents who had parents with a high school education, respectively. Associations between education, Hispanic ethnicity, and parents' education and late differentiated senescent-like T lymphocytes (TemRA) and B cells were largely driven by cytomegalovirus (CMV), suggesting it is a factor in observed SES inequalities in immunosenescence. Naïve T lymphocytes may be particularly affected by socioeconomic position and may therefore be of particular interest to research interested in inequalities in health and aging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging
  • Child
  • Educational Status
  • Ethnicity
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Retirement*
  • Social Class*