T cell immunity and caregiving stress in young and older caregivers

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Abstract

Background:

The present study aimed to examine the impact of caregiving stress and aging on parameters of T cell immunity using caregivers and controls across two age cohorts.

Methods:

Seventy-nine young and older caregivers (parents of children with developmental disabilities and spousal dementia caregivers, respectively) were compared to 76 non-caregiving controls. Participants completed questionnaires to provide information about socio-demographics, health behaviour, psychosocial and caregiving variables, and provided a blood sample. T cell senescence and exhaustion markers, thymic output, and serum CMV antibody titre were assessed.

Results:

Despite greater psychological morbidity (greater depression, anxiety, perceived stress) than controls, caregivers showed robust immunity for most T cell parameters with the exception of KLRG-1 (marker involved in T cell senescence pathway).

Conclusions:

A higher percentage of KLRG1+ T cells in caregivers could explain the poorer vaccination response that has previously been reported in this group. These data also suggest that the impact of caregiving per se on immunity is not uniform.

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