Objectively measured social integration is associated with an immune risk phenotype following marital separation

Karen Hasselmo, Matthias R. Mehl, Allison M. Tackman, Angela L. Carey, Anne M. Wertheimer, Raymond P. Stowe, David A. Sbarra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background Close relationships play an integral role in human development, and robust evidence links marital separation and divorce to poor health outcomes. Social integration may play a key role in this association. In many ways, the study of marital separation and divorce provides an ideal model system for a more complete understanding of the association between life stress and physical health. Purpose The current study investigated associations among objectively measured social integration, psychological distress, and biomarkers of immune health in recently separated adults (N = 49). Methods We collected four measures of immune functioning-interleukin-6, C-reactive protein, and antibody titers to latent cytomegalovirus and Epstein-Barr virus-that were combined to yield a viral-Immune Risk Profile. To assess how variability in social integration is associated with immunological correlates following the end of a marriage, we incorporated observational ecological momentary assessment data using a novel methodology (the Electronically Activated Recorder). Results We found that objectively measured social behaviors are associated with concurrent viral-Immune Risk Profile scores over and above the effects of psychological distress and that psychological distress may be linked to biomarkers of immune health through social integration. Conclusions This research expands current knowledge of biomarkers of immune health after divorce and separation and includes a new methodology for objective measures of social engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-145
Number of pages16
JournalAnnals of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018


  • Divorce
  • Immunological risk
  • Marital separation
  • Social integration
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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