Suicidal ideation is associated with elevated inflammation in patients with major depressive disorder

Depress Anxiety. 2013 Apr;30(4):307-14. doi: 10.1002/da.22087. Epub 2013 Mar 15.


Background: Patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) who attempt or complete suicide have elevated inflammation compared to nonsuicidal patients with MDD. However, greater severity of depression and the medical lethality of suicide attempts could account for such elevated inflammation in suicide attempters and suicide completers.

Methods: To clarify, we measured inflammatory markers in patients with MDD with and without high levels of suicidal ideation and in nondepressed controls (N = 124). Levels of suicidal ideation, depression severity, and recent suicide attempts were assessed by structured clinical interviews. A composite score including the inflammatory markers tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), interleukin-10 (IL-10), and C-reactive protein (CRP) was used as an inflammatory index. Analysis of covariance models were used to assess group differences with adjustments for age and gender.

Results: Patients with MDD and high suicidal ideation had significantly higher inflammatory index scores than both controls, F(1,53) = 18.08, partial η(2) = .25, P < .001, and patients with MDD and lower suicidal ideation F(1,44) = 7.59, partial η(2) = .15, P = .009. In contrast, patients with lower suicidal ideation were not significantly different from controls on the inflammatory index, F(1,63) = .52, partial η(2) = .01, P = .47. Follow-up analyses indicated that differences between patients with MDD and high versus lower suicidal ideation were independent of depression severity and recent suicide attempts.

Conclusions: Suicidal ideation may be uniquely associated with inflammation in depressed patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • C-Reactive Protein / immunology
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / immunology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Interleukin-10 / immunology
  • Interleukin-6 / immunology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / immunology*
  • Self-Injurious Behavior / psychology
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide, Attempted
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / immunology
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / immunology


  • IL10 protein, human
  • IL6 protein, human
  • Interleukin-6
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • C-Reactive Protein