Humans lose immune response to grief with age

A new research has revealed that elderly people have reduced immune response to bereavement.

ANI| Updated: Sep 10, 2014, 14:16 PM IST

Washington: A new research has revealed that elderly people have reduced immune response to bereavement.

The study from the University of Birmingham shows how the balance of the stress hormones during grief changes as people age and elderly people are more likely to have reduced immune function, as a result, suffer from infections.

Researcher Anna Phillips said that during the difficult weeks and months after loss people can suffer from reduced neutrophil function, which are the most abundant type of white blood cell and are essential at combating infections and illness, and so they become vulnerable when this happens.

The results of the study suggested a relationship between neutrophil function and the balance of human's stress hormones, out of which cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS) in particular appeared to display different responses to loss as people age.

Janet Lord added that Cortisol has been known to suppress elements of the immune system during times of high stress, so having an unbalanced ratio of cortisol and DHEAS was going to affect how able people were to ward of illness and infection when grieving.

Lord continued that it was also incredibly useful, particularly in activating some anti-stress and anti-inflammation pathways, and so it was not as simple as trying to suppress the cortisol in vulnerable people.

The researchers considered that hormonal supplements or similar products could be used to help people at an increased risk of stress but that this was not the only solution.

The study is published in the journal Immunity and Ageing.