Leukocytosis, monocytosis and neutrophilia: hallmarks of severe depression

J Psychiatr Res. 1992 Apr;26(2):125-34. doi: 10.1016/0022-3956(92)90004-8.


To date, there has been a small number of reports that severe depression is accompanied by disturbances in total white blood cell (i.e. leukocytosis) and leukocyte subset (i.e. neutrophilia, monocytosis, lymphopenia) counts. These results, however, have not yet been validated in a large-scale, well-controlled study. To this end, we have counted the number of leukocytes, monocytes, lymphocytes and granulocytes (neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils) in 22 healthy controls and in 109 depressed inpatients. We noted leukocytosis in major depressed patients compared with normal subjects, whilst minor depressives manifested intermediate findings. Leukocytosis was significantly more pronounced in major depressed males compared with major depressed females. Major depression related leukocytosis appears to be characterized by neutrophilia and monocytosis. There was a significant positive relationship between the overall severity of illness on one hand, and the degrees of leukocytosis, neutrophilia and monocytosis on the other. The total number of both phagocytic cell populations (i.e. monocytes and neutrophils) was significantly and positively related. Our results might point to the existence of an inflammatory process in major depressed subjects, particularly in males.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / immunology*
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance / immunology
  • Leukocyte Count
  • Leukocytosis / diagnosis
  • Leukocytosis / immunology*
  • Leukocytosis / psychology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Monocytes / immunology*
  • Neutrophils / immunology*
  • Phagocytosis / immunology