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Articles by Lutgendorf, S. K.
Articles by Lubaroff, D. M.
The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences 56:M97-M105 (2001)
© 2001 The Gerontological Society of America

Effects of Housing Relocation on Immunocompetence and Psychosocial Functioning in Older Adults

Susan K. Lutgendorfa, Toni Tripp Reimerb, John H. Harveya, Glenn Marksa, Sue-Young Honga, Stephen L. Hillisc and David M. Lubaroffd

a Department of Psychology, University of Iowa, Iowa City
b College of Nursing, University of Iowa, Iowa City
c Department of Statistics and Actuarial Science, University of Iowa, Iowa City
d Departments of Urology and Microbiology, University of Iowa, Iowa City

Correspondence: Susan K. Lutgendorf, Department of Psychology, E11 Seashore Hall, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242 E-mail: [email protected].

Decision Editor: William B. Ershler, MD

Background. The psychological and physical response to moderate life stressors among older adults has not been well characterized. This research examines effects of voluntary housing relocation on distress and immune function in healthy older adults as a model for studying the effects of moderate life stress.

Methods. Thirty older adults moving to congregate living facilities were assessed 1 month premove, 2 weeks postmove, and 3 months postmove. Twenty-eight nonmoving control subjects were assessed at similar time points. Subjects completed psychosocial questionnaires and had early morning blood draws in their homes. Blood samples were assayed for natural killer cell cytotoxicity (NKCC), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and IgG antibody titers to the Epstein Barr virus (EBV) viral capsid antigen.

Results. Movers demonstrated decreased vigor and elevated thought intrusion 1 month premove and 2 weeks postmove. By the 3-month follow-up, vigor increased, and intrusion decreased to levels commensurate with the controls. Averaged across all time points, movers showed lower NKCC than controls; however, post-hoc analyses indicate that by the 3-month follow-up time point, these differences were no longer significant. There were no differences between groups in IL-6 or in EBV antibody titers. Independent of the effects of group, higher levels of vigor were associated with greater NKCC at all assessments and with lower EBV titers at 2 weeks postmove.

Conclusions. Findings suggest that in general, healthy older adults recover well psychologically from moderate, temporary life stressors such as moving. Whereas movers showed generally lower NKCC than controls, IL-6 and EBV antibody titers appeared not to be strongly affected by the stress of moving.

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Copyright © 2001 by The Gerontological Society of America.