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Associations between Social Adversity and Biomarkers of Inflammation, Stress, and Aging in Children

  • Pantell, Matthew S
  • Silveira, Patricia P
  • de Mendonça Filho, Euclides José
  • Wing, Holly
  • Brown, Erika M
  • Keeton, Victoria F
  • Pokhvisneva, Irina
  • O’Donnell, Kieran J
  • Neuhaus, John
  • Hessler, Danielle
  • Meaney, Michael J
  • Adler, Nancy E
  • Gottlieb, Laura M
Publication Date
Jan 17, 2024
eScholarship - University of California
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BackgroundPrior work has found relationships between childhood social adversity and biomarkers of stress, but knowledge gaps remain. To help address these gaps, we explored associations between social adversity and biomarkers of inflammation (interleukin-1β [IL-1β], IL-6, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor-alpha [TNF-α], and salivary cytokine hierarchical "clusters" based on the three interleukins), neuroendocrine function (cortisol, cortisone, dehydroepiandrosterone, testosterone, and progesterone), neuromodulation (N-arachidonoylethanolamine, stearoylethanolamine, oleoylethanolamide, and palmitoylethanolamide), and epigenetic aging (Pediatric-Buccal-Epigenetic clock).MethodsWe collected biomarker samples of children ages 0-17 recruited from an acute care pediatrics clinic and examined their associations with caregiver-endorsed education, income, social risk factors, and cumulative adversity. We calculated regression-adjusted means for each biomarker and compared associations with social factors using Wald tests. We used logistic regression to predict being in the highest cytokine cluster based on social predictors.ResultsOur final sample included 537 children but varied based on each biomarker. Cumulative social adversity was significantly associated with having higher levels of all inflammatory markers and with cortisol, displaying a U-shaped distribution. There were no significant relationships between cumulative social adversity and cortisone, neuromodulation biomarkers or epigenetic aging.ConclusionOur findings support prior work suggesting that social stress exposures contribute to increased inflammation in children.ImpactOur study is one of the largest studies examining associations between childhood social adversity and biomarkers of inflammation, neuroendocrine function, neuromodulation, and epigenetic aging. It is one of the largest studies to link childhood social adversity to biomarkers of inflammation, and the first of which we are aware to link cumulative social adversity to cytokine clusters. It is also one of the largest studies to examine associations between steroids and epigenetic aging among children, and one of the only studies of which we are aware to examine associations between social adversity and endocannabinoids among children.Clinical trial registrationNCT02746393.

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