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Family Poverty Is Associated with Cytomegalovirus Antibody Titers in U.S. Children


Dowd, Jennifer Beam; Palermo, Tia M.; & Aiello, Allison E. (2012). Family Poverty Is Associated with Cytomegalovirus Antibody Titers in U.S. Children. Health Psychology, 31(1), 5-10. PMCID: PMC3677208


OBJECTIVE: Early life environmental and psychological influences are thought to play an important role in the development of the immune system. Antibody response to latent herpesviruses has been used as an indirect measure of cell-mediated immune function but has seldom been applied to younger age groups.
METHODS: We used data from the 1999-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) to test for an association between family poverty and continuous antibody response to cytomegalovirus in U.S. children aged 6-16 (N = 2,226) using ordinary least squares regression.
RESULTS: Poverty was significantly associated with increased antibody levels among seropositive individuals. The association between income and antibody levels exhibited a threshold effect, with additional income beyond the poverty line not associated with increased antibody titers. This relationship was more robust among older compared with younger children.
CONCLUSIONS: Early life social factors such as family poverty could have detrimental impacts on the developing immune system, with potentially important consequences for later life health outcomes. Exposure to socioeconomic stressors for longer periods during childhood may further enhance alterations in immune response to cytomegalovirus.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Health Psychology


Dowd, Jennifer Beam
Palermo, Tia M.
Aiello, Allison E.