Inflammatory markers and depressed mood in older persons: results from the Health, Aging and Body Composition study

Biol Psychiatry. 2003 Sep 1;54(5):566-72. doi: 10.1016/s0006-3223(02)01811-5.


Patients with major depression have elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines. We examined the link between inflammatory markers and depressed mood in a community-based sample of older people. Data are from 3024 well-functioning older persons, 70-79 years of age, participating in the Health, Aging and Body Composition study. Depressed mood was defined as a Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale score of 16 or higher. Plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL)-6, tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, and C-reactive protein (CRP) were measured. Compared with the 2879 nondepressed subjects, the 145 persons with depressed mood had higher median plasma levels of IL-6 (2.04 vs. 1.83 pg/mL, p =.02), TNF-alpha (3.43 vs. 3.16 pg/mL, p =.05), and CRP (1.96 vs. 1.66 mg/L, p =.03). After adjustment for health and demographic variables, depressed mood was especially prevalent among persons who had a high (above median) plasma level for at least two of the inflammatory markers. Compared with those without high levels, for persons with a high level for two or all three markers the risk of depressed mood was 2.45 (95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.34-4.47) and 2.40 (95% CI = 1.27-4.53), respectively. The association between depressed mood and serum level of IL-6 was significantly stronger in men than in women. In old age, depressed mood is associated with high levels of inflammatory markers, suggesting that depressed mood is causing and/or caused by systemic inflammation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Composition
  • C-Reactive Protein / analysis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis*
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder / immunology
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-6 / blood*
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / analysis*


  • Interleukin-6
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • C-Reactive Protein