When a person loses a parent or a caregiver at a young age, their immune system suffers later in life, according to new research.
When you see somebody with high levels of antibodies to CMV, that tells us that your immune system is not dealing with that virus well anymore.”
The HRS is an ongoing, nationally representative longitudinal survey of adult Americans which began in 1992 and includes more than 20,000 people over age 50.
From the Venous Blood Study, the research team was able to measure four indicators of immune function in late life, past age 65.
They found consistent associations between participants who experienced parental or caregiver loss and separation and poor immune function across all race and ethnicity subgroups.
Specifically, the researchers found that non-Hispanic Black people who experienced caregiver or parental loss before age 16 had a 26% increase in CMV IgG antibodies in late life.
“Who experiences parental loss and separation, and who has poor immune function is not distributed equitably at all,” Noppert says.
Internationally, about 10.5 million children have experienced COVID-associated orphanhood or caregiver death, according to recent research.
“And this isn’t even considering all the kids who have lost grandparents, aunts, uncles, and neighbors and people who are actually providing care for them, and whose loss would be traumatic.”
We don’t know what’s coming in terms of population health, and this work starts to paint that picture a bit,” she says.