Interleukin-6 (IL-6) is a proinflammatory cytokine that is normally tightly regulated and expressed at low levels, except during infection, trauma, or other stress. Among several factors that down-regulate IL-6 gene expression are estrogen and testosterone. After menopause or andropause, IL-6 levels are elevated, even in the absence of infection, trauma, or stress. IL-6 is a potent mediator of inflammatory processes, and it has been proposed that the age-associated increase in IL-6 accounts for certain of the phenotypic changes of advanced age, particularly those that resemble chronic inflammatory disease [decreased lean body mass, osteopenia, low-grade anemia, decreased serum albumin and cholesterol, and increased inflammatory proteins such as C-reactive protein (CRP) and serum amyloid A]. Furthermore, the age-associated rise in IL-6 has been linked to lymphoproliferative disorders, multiple myeloma, osteoporosis, and Alzheimer's disease. This overview discusses the data relating IL-6 to age-associated diseases and to frailty. Like the syndrome of inappropriate antidiuretic hormone, it is possible that certain clinically important late-life changes are due to an inappropriate presence of IL-6.