The C-reactive Protein, Socioeconomic Status, Stress, and Inflammation

Psychological stress has been associated with elevated inflammation and the risks of many physical illnesses such as heart disease. However, individual coping strategies may affect stress responses and inflammatory processes, leading to different health results in different people.  For example, in a study of 245 adolescents, self-report assessments of stressful events and coping status, as well as the blood levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured (Low et al., 2013). The study found that once challenged by stressful life events, positive engagement coping was inversely related to the blood levels of CRP, indicating reduced levels of inflammation.

In another study of 11,371 adults including both white and black people, the connections between socioeconomic status (SES) and C-reactive protein (CRP) were examined (Brummett et al., 2013). Factors associated with SES were tested, including both parental and participant education status, income levels, and early life environment. Other factors were also evaluated as potential mediators, such as body mass index (BMI), smoking habits, and the consumption of alcohol.

The study found that the factors of race and gender may be involved in the SES-CRP association (Brummett et al., 2013). In addition, BMI was found to be a mediator of the association between parent education status and CRP levels for white people. For white men, smoking was found to be a mediator involved in the income-CRP and the education-CRP associations. The overall results suggested that the SES-CRP association may be affected by the factors in SES as well as timing.

These studies have indicated that as a marker of inflammatory processes, C-reactive protein (CRP) may be associated with stress, coping strategies, socioeconomic status, and life styles. Further studies are still needed to evaluate the role of inflammation in individual stress responses, societal and environmental interactions, as well as pathological processes in disorders such as cardiovascular diseases. Such analyses may be helpful for the identification of disease risk factors and the development of preventive strategies.

References:

Brummett BH, Babyak MA, Singh A, Jiang R, Williams RB, Harris KM, Siegler IC.  Socioeconomic indices as independent correlates of C-reactive protein in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Psychosom Med. 2013 Nov-Dec;75(9):882-93. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0000000000000005.

Low CA, Matthews KA, Hall M. Elevated C-reactive protein in adolescents: roles of stress and coping. Psychosom Med. 2013 Jun;75(5):449-52. doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e31828d3f1d.

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