An Evaluation of Perceived Health Risk and Depressive Symptoms Before a Disaster in Predicting Postdisaster Inflammation

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Abstract

Objective

Exposure to major life stressors is associated with subsequent enhanced inflammation-related disease processes. Depressive symptoms exacerbate stress-induced inflammatory responses. Moreover, those who report a high degree of perceived health risk before being exposed to a major life stressor such as a disaster are at risk for poor health outcomes. The present study examined whether perceived health risk and depressive symptoms before a disaster were associated with postdisaster inflammation markers.

Methods

The sample included 124 participants (mean [standard deviation] age = 55 [16] years; 69% women). At a baseline visit, participants completed self-report measures of perceived health risk and depressive symptoms (Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale) in addition to a blood draw for the assessment of inflammation markers (C-reactive protein, tumor necrosis factor receptor 1, and interleukin 6). All participants lived near a large petrochemical complex where an unexpected explosion occurred. A second blood sample was obtained 2 to 6 months after the explosion.

Results

No significant differences in inflammation markers were found between predisaster and postdisaster assessment (p > .21). An interaction between predisaster perceived health risk and depressive symptoms in predicting postdisaster circulating inflammation markers was identified (Cohen f2 = 0.051). Specifically, predisaster perceived health risk was associated with postdisaster circulating inflammation markers if predisaster depressive symptoms were greater than 8.10 on the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale.

Conclusions

These findings add to our understanding of the complex interactions between stress, depression, and immune responses. Indeed, findings provide a potential mechanism (i.e., inflammation) explaining the association between exposure to major life stressors and negative mental and physical health outcomes.

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