Hostility and pain are related to inflammation in older adults

Jennifer E. Graham, Theodore F. Robles, Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser, William B. Malarkey, Michael G. Bissell, Ronald Glaser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Chronically elevated systemic inflammation has a dramatic impact on health for older individuals. As stress-related responses, both hostility and pain perception may contribute to inflammation which in turn may maintain negative emotion and pain over time. We used structural equation modeling to examine the degree to which trait hostility and pain were uniquely associated with C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum IL-6 levels over a 6-year span in a sample of older adults. The sample included 113 present or former caregivers of a spouse with dementia and 101 non-caregivers. After accounting for depression, health behaviours, and other risk factors, which were also assessed longitudinally, pain and, to a lesser extent, hostility were uniquely associated with plasma levels of CRP but not IL-6. When examined separately, the association between pain and CRP was significant only for caregivers, while the association between hostility and CRP was comparable for the two groups. These findings suggest that hostility may play a role in a cycle of inflammation among older adults, and that pain may be particularly problematic for those under chronic stress. Our results also shed light on inflammation as a mechanism underlying the effects of hostility on cardiovascular disease morbidity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-400
Number of pages12
JournalBrain, Behavior, and Immunity
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Immunology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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