Early-life stress, depressive symptoms, and inflammation: the role of social factors.

TitleEarly-life stress, depressive symptoms, and inflammation: the role of social factors.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsNakamura, JS, Kim, ES, Rentscher, KE, Bower, JE, Kuhlman, K
JournalAging & Mental Health
ISSN Number1364-6915
KeywordsAging, depression, Inflammation, Social Factors, Stress

OBJECTIVE: To identify modifiable, social factors that moderate the relationship between early-life stress (ELS) and health outcomes as measured by depressive symptoms and inflammation.

METHODS: Data were from 3,416 adults (58.28% female), ages 36 - 97 (M= 68.41; SD= 10.24) who participated in the 2006 wave of the Health and Retirement Study, a nationally representative sample of older adults in the United States. This study used hierarchical regression analyses to first test the main effects of ELS on depressive symptoms and inflammation (high-sensitivity C-reactive protein). Four social factors (perceived support, frequency of social contact, network size, and volunteer activity) were assessed as moderators of the ELS-depression and ELS-inflammation relationships.

RESULTS: There was a small, positive association between ELS and depressive symptoms ( = 0.17,  = 0.05, = .002), which was moderated by social contact and perceived support. Specifically, ELS was only associated with elevated depressive symptoms for participants with limited social contact ( = 0.24,  = 0.07, < .001) and low perceived support ( = 0.24,  = 0.07, < .001). These associations remained after accounting for potential confounds (age, body-mass index, adulthood stress, and marital status).

CONCLUSIONS: Increased social contact and perceived support may be protective for individuals at a higher risk of developing depressive symptoms as a result of ELS. Future interventions may benefit from leveraging these social factors to improve quality of life in adults with ELS.

Citation Key11399
PubMed ID33502257