Journal Article

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 and David A Sbarra

in Annals of Behavioral Medicine

Volume 52, issue 2, pages 130-145
ISSN: 0883-6612
Published online January 2018 | e-ISSN: 1532-4796 | DOI:

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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.


The current study investigated associations among objectively measured social integration, psychological distress, and biomarkers of immune health in recently separated adults (N = 49).


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).


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.


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.

Keywords: Divorce; Marital separation; Social integration; Social support; Immunological risk

Journal Article.  11402 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Medicine and Health ; Patient Education and Information ; Primary Care ; Public Health and Epidemiology

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