Atopic disorders and depression: findings from a large, population-based study

J Affect Disord. 2014 Feb;155:261-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2013.11.009. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Background: Atopy, a common disorder characterized by a sensitivity to allergic reactions, affects a large proportion of the adult population and, as with depression, is associated with immune-inflammatory pathway changes. We sought to determine the role of atopic disorders in depression using data from a randomly-selected, population-based study of men and women.

Methods: Cross-sectional data derived from the Geelong Osteoporosis Study for 942 males and 1085 females were analyzed. Depression [major depressive disorder (MDD), minor depression and dysthymia] was assessed using the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Research Version, Non-patient edition. Data on medical conditions, including atopic disorders (asthma, hay fever and eczema), smoking status, alcohol consumption, socioeconomic status, and physical activity were documented by self-report. Logistic regression modeling was used to explore the associations between atopic disorders and depression.

Results: Atopic disorders were associated with a 59% increased likelihood of depression [gender and smoking-adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1:50, 95% CI 1.20-1.97]. Sub-group analyses revealed a similar pattern for those with MDD [gender and smoking-adjusted OR 1:54, 95% CI 1.22-1.94]. These associations were independent of socio-demographic characteristics, clinical and lifestyle factors.

Limitations: Reliance on self-report for allergic symptoms and cross-sectional nature of study.

Conclusion: This population-based study provides evidence of the potential contribution of allergic disorders to depression. Further research is required to elucidate the direction of this association and to further explicate its underlying physiology, including immune-inflammation markers.

Keywords: 5-HT; 5-hydroxytryptamine; ABS; Allergic disorders; Atopy; Australian Bureau of Statistics; BMI; C-reactive protein; CI; CMI; CRP; Cytokines; Depression; GOS; Geelong Osteoporosis Study; ICAM-1; IL; IRSAD; IgE; Immune system; Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage/Disadvantage; Inflammation; MDD; NHANES III; O&NS; OR; SCID-I/NP; SEIFA; SES; Socio-Economic Index for Areas; Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV-TR Research Version, Non-patient edition; T regulatory; TNFα; Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey; Treg; body mass index; cell-mediated immune; confidence intervals; immunoglobulin E; interleukin; intracellular adhesion molecule-1; major depressive disorder; odds ratio; oxidative and nitrosative stress; socio-economic status; tumor necrosis factor α.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alcohol Drinking / epidemiology
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Dysthymic Disorder / epidemiology
  • Eczema / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Prospective Studies
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Seasonal / epidemiology*
  • Self Report
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Socioeconomic Factors