The association between bereavement and biomarkers of inflammation

Miri Cohen, Stephen Granger, Esme Fuller-Thomson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Bereavement is a major life event that has been associated with a range of negative health outcomes. To assess whether levels of inflammation markers and cortisol vary significantly by bereavement status and/or number of recent bereavements. The study was based on a secondary analysis of data from the Midlife in the United States (MIDUS) II biomarkers project. After excluding participants suffering from conditions which directly affect immune functions, 529 participants were included (age 34-84 years), of whom 260 experienced the death of a person close to them 5-63months prior to assessment. Levels of interleukin 6 (IL-6), C-reactive protein (CRP), soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-I), Soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin) and cortisol were examined controlling for demographic and health characteristics. Bereaved respondents had higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers IL-6 and sE-selectin, but not CRP and sICAM-I than the non-bereaved. Number of recent bereavements significantly predicted levels of IL-6 in the unadjusted and adjusted regression models. Body Mass Index (BMI) and number of chronic conditions partially mediated the association between number of bereavements and IL-6 levels. Number of recent bereavements is associated with higher levels of inflammation, particularly among individuals with higher BMI and/or chronic health problems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-59
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2015 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.


  • C-reactive protein
  • bereavement
  • biomarkers
  • inflammation
  • interleukin 6

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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