Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved

Christopher P. Fagundes, Ryan L. Brown, Michelle A. Chen, Kyle W. Murdock, Levi Saucedo, Angie LeRoy, E. Lydia Wu, Luz M. Garcini, Anoushka D. Shahane, Faiza Baameur, Cobi Jacoba Johanna Heijnen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Grief is conceptualized by strong negative emotions, which include longing, sadness, and preoccupations with thoughts, recollections, and images of the spouse. In the initial months after the loss of a spouse, those who are widowed are at risk for cardiovascular problems and premature mortality. In the general population, depression is characterized by chronic low-grade inflammation, a key predictor of cardiovascular problems, morbidity, and mortality. Although depression and grief share similarities, they are distinct constructs. We aimed to identify if grief was related to inflammation among those who had a spouse recently die. We also sought to determine if those who are widowed and already experience elevated levels of depressive symptoms compared with the general population had higher levels of inflammation compared with those who are widowed who report fewer depressive symptoms. Ninety-nine recently bereaved individuals (M = 84.74 days since passing, SD = 18.17) completed a blood draw and psychological assessments. Proinflammatory T cell-derived cytokines were assessed, which included interferon gamma (IFN-γ), interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-α), IL17-A, and IL-2. Bereaved individuals with a higher grief severity (using an established cut-score) had higher levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IFN-γ IL-6, and TNF-α than those with less grief severity. Those who experienced higher levels of depression exhibited elevated levels of proinflammatory cytokines compared with those who had lower levels of depression (using a continuous measure of depressive symptoms, as well as an established cut score). This is the first study to demonstrate that inflammatory markers can distinguish those who are widowed based on grief severity such that those who are higher on grief severity have higher levels of inflammation compared with those who are lower on grief severity. These findings also add to the broader literature on depression and inflammation by showing that even in a population with high levels of depressive symptoms, there is a positive relationship between depression and inflammation.

LanguageEnglish (US)
Pages190-197
Number of pages8
JournalPsychoneuroendocrinology
Volume100
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

Fingerprint

Grief
Depression
Inflammation
Widowhood
Spouses
Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
Cytokines
Interleukin-6
Population
Premature Mortality
Interferon-gamma
Interleukin-2
Emotions
Psychology
Morbidity
T-Lymphocytes

Keywords

  • Bereavement
  • Depression
  • Grief
  • Inflammation
  • Psychoneuroimmunology
  • Widow

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry

Cite this

Fagundes, C. P., Brown, R. L., Chen, M. A., Murdock, K. W., Saucedo, L., LeRoy, A., ... Heijnen, C. J. J. (2019). Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 100, 190-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.10.006

Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. / Fagundes, Christopher P.; Brown, Ryan L.; Chen, Michelle A.; Murdock, Kyle W.; Saucedo, Levi; LeRoy, Angie; Wu, E. Lydia; Garcini, Luz M.; Shahane, Anoushka D.; Baameur, Faiza; Heijnen, Cobi Jacoba Johanna.

In: Psychoneuroendocrinology, Vol. 100, 01.02.2019, p. 190-197.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Fagundes, CP, Brown, RL, Chen, MA, Murdock, KW, Saucedo, L, LeRoy, A, Wu, EL, Garcini, LM, Shahane, AD, Baameur, F & Heijnen, CJJ 2019, 'Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved' Psychoneuroendocrinology, vol. 100, pp. 190-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.10.006
Fagundes CP, Brown RL, Chen MA, Murdock KW, Saucedo L, LeRoy A et al. Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 Feb 1;100:190-197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.psyneuen.2018.10.006
Fagundes, Christopher P. ; Brown, Ryan L. ; Chen, Michelle A. ; Murdock, Kyle W. ; Saucedo, Levi ; LeRoy, Angie ; Wu, E. Lydia ; Garcini, Luz M. ; Shahane, Anoushka D. ; Baameur, Faiza ; Heijnen, Cobi Jacoba Johanna. / Grief, depressive symptoms, and inflammation in the spousally bereaved. In: Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2019 ; Vol. 100. pp. 190-197.
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