Chronic stress alters the immune response to influenza virus vaccine in older adults

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 2;93(7):3043-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.93.7.3043.


To determine whether a chronic stressor (caregiving for a spouse with a progressive dementia) is associated with an impaired immune response to influenza virus vaccination, we compared 32 caregivers' vaccine responses with those of 32 sex-, age-, and socioeconomically matched control subjects. Caregivers showed a poorer antibody response following vaccination relative to control subjects as assessed by two independent methods, ELISA and hemagglutination inhibition. Caregivers also had lower levels of in vitro virus-specific-induced interleukin 2 levels and interleukin 1beta; interleukin 6 did not differ between groups. These data demonstrate that down-regulation of the immune response to influenza virus vaccination is associated with a chronic stressor in the elderly. These results could have implications for vulnerability to infection among older adults.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged / psychology*
  • Alzheimer Disease
  • Biomarkers
  • Caregivers*
  • Dementia
  • Depression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Influenza Vaccines*
  • Interleukin-1 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-1 / blood
  • Interleukin-2 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 / blood
  • Interleukin-6 / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-6 / blood
  • Interleukins / biosynthesis*
  • Interleukins / blood
  • Male
  • Personality Inventory
  • Spouses
  • Stress, Psychological / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Interleukin-1
  • Interleukin-2
  • Interleukin-6
  • Interleukins