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Depression May Lead to Inflammation, Health Problems

Depression May Lead to Inflammation, Health ProblemsInflammation has been linked with depression in recent research, but scientists have yet to determine if inflammation in the body is a consequence of, or contributor to, major depression.

A new study suggests that depression is the likely instigator. However, given the episodic pattern of depression, inflammation may persist even when depressive symptoms have subsided.

Inflammation in the body is common to many diseases including infections, malignancy and tissue injuries.

Depression has also been linked to an inflammation marker in blood called C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker that is often associated with an increased risk of diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

In the study, William Copeland, Ph.D., at Duke University Medical Center and his colleagues tested the direction of association between depression and CRP in a large sample of adolescent and young adult volunteers.

The researchers studied the children as they matured into adulthood. This longitudinal approach allowed the experts to assess changes over time in both CRP levels and any depressive symptoms or episodes.

Investigators found that elevated levels of CRP did not predict later depression, but the number of cumulative depressive episodes was associated with increased levels of CRP.

“Our results support a pathway from childhood depression to increased levels of CRP, even after accounting for other health-related behaviors that are known to influence inflammation. We found no support for the pathway from CRP to increased risk for depression,” said Copeland.

The study is presented in the journal Biological Psychiatry.

Researchers say that the findings suggest that, by this measure (CRP levels), depression is more likely to contribute to inflammation in the body as opposed to arise as a consequence of inflammation in the body.

The highest levels of CRP were found in those who had endured the wear and tear of multiple depressive episodes.

Experts believe this could mean that long-term emotional distress, beginning in childhood, may influence the development of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in middle-age.

“Depression is a recurring disorder for many people. Thus the finding that repeated episodes of depression contribute to inflammation in the body highlights a potentially important role for untreated depression as a contributor to a range of serious medical problems,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry.

“These data add to growing evidence of the medical importance of effectively treating depression.”

Source: Elsevier

Depression May Lead to Inflammation, Health Problems

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Depression May Lead to Inflammation, Health Problems. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 6 Jan 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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