The role of inflammatory cytokines in suicidal behavior: a systematic review

Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. 2013 Dec;23(12):1672-86. doi: 10.1016/j.euroneuro.2013.06.002. Epub 2013 Jul 27.


There is growing evidence that inflammatory mediators play a critical role in the pathophysiology of both major depression and suicidal behavior. Immunological differences have been reported in both major affective disorders and suicidal behavior. Specifically, increased levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines have been shown to correlate with the severity of depression and various cytokines have been identified as potentially important in understanding the pathophysiology of major affective disorders/suicidality. We aimed to conduct a systematic review of the current literature to investigate the association between inflammatory cytokines and suicidal behavior. Only articles from peer-reviewed journals were selected for inclusion in the present review. Most studies documented the association between suicidality and IL2, IL-6, IL-8, TNF-α and VEGF levels that have been found altered in suicidal behavior. The presence of major depressive disorder (MDD) with suicidal ideation/attempts was associated with differences in inflammatory cytokine profile when compared to that without suicidal ideation/attempts. Most suicide attempters or subjects with suicidal ideation showed an imbalance of the immune system but this does not imply the existence of a causal link. Also, not all studies demonstrated a positive correlation between inflammatory cytokines and suicidal behavior. Further additional studies should elucidate the molecular mechanisms of the immune activation pathways underlying suicidality.

Keywords: Cytokines; Inflammation; Inflammatory mediators; Suicidal behavior.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / metabolism*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Suicide* / psychology


  • Cytokines