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BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to understand variation in immunosenescence at the population-level. Thus far, population patterns of immunosenescence have not well described. METHODS: We characterized measures of immunosenescence from the 2016 Venous Blood Study from the nationally representative U.S Health and Retirement Study (HRS) of individuals ages 50 years and older. RESULTS: Median values of the CD8+:CD4+, EMRA:Naïve CD4+ and EMRA:Naïve CD8+ ratios were higher among older participants and were lower in those with additional educational attainment. Generally, minoritized race and ethnic groups had immune markers suggestive of a more aged immune profile: Hispanics had a CD8+:CD4+ median value of 0.37 (95 % CI: 0.35, 0.39) compared to 0.30 in non-Hispanic Whites (95 % CI: 0.29, 0.31). Non-Hispanic Blacks had the highest median value of the EMRA:Naïve CD4+ ratio (0.08; 95 % CI: 0.07, 0.09) compared to non-Hispanic Whites (0.03; 95 % CI: 0.028, 0.033). In regression analyses, race/ethnicity and education were associated with large differences in the immune ratio measures after adjustment for age and sex. CONCLUSIONS: Lower educational attainment and minoritized racial ethnic status were associated with higher levels of immunosenescence. This population variation may have important implications for both risk of age-related disease and vulnerability to emerging pathogens (e.g., SARS-CoV-2).

Original publication




Journal article


Brain Behav Immun

Publication Date





361 - 368


Geroscience, Immunosenescence, Population-based studies, Race/ethnicity, Sociodemographic differences, Socioeconomic status, Humans, Aged, Middle Aged, SARS-CoV-2, Pandemics, COVID-19, Academic Success, Health Status