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Death, Marriage May Affect Response to Flu Shot in Elderly

Antibody titer is higher among happily married, lower if loved one has died in previous year

MONDAY, March 20 (HealthDay News) -- The death of a loved one in the year prior to flu vaccination is associated with a lower antibody response in elderly patients, while having a happy marriage is linked with higher antibody titers, researchers report in the March 20 issue of Brain, Behavior, and Immunity.

Anna C. Phillips, Ph.D., and colleagues from the University of Birmingham in England, examined antibody responses to the annual trivalent influenza vaccine in 184 men and women aged 65 or older at baseline, one month and 12 months. Patients also completed a questionnaire about life events in the past year such as health, familial and marital relationships, housing, work, financial situation and death of a spouse, close family member or friend.

The researchers found that bereavement in the year before vaccination was associated with lower antibody titers to two of the influenza strains after one month. In contrast, those who were married and had a high level of marital satisfaction had a higher peak antibody response to one of the influenza strains after one month, which was even more evident in the younger half of the married sample.

"Thus, in the elderly, peak antibody response was associated with bereavement and marriage, and not the more general factors, life events and social support, related to antibody response in student samples," Phillips and colleagues conclude.

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