Pathogen-Host Defense in the Evolution of Depression: Insights into Epidemiology, Genetics, Bioregional Differences and Female Preponderance

Neuropsychopharmacology. 2017 Jan;42(1):5-27. doi: 10.1038/npp.2016.194. Epub 2016 Sep 15.


Significant attention has been paid to the potential adaptive value of depression as it relates to interactions with people in the social world. However, in this review, we outline the rationale of why certain features of depression including its environmental and genetic risk factors, its association with the acute phase response and its age of onset and female preponderance appear to have evolved from human interactions with pathogens in the microbial world. Approaching the relationship between inflammation and depression from this evolutionary perspective yields a number of insights that may reveal important clues regarding the origin and epidemiology of the disorder as well as the persistence of its risk alleles in the modern human genome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / epidemiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / genetics
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / immunology*
  • Female
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Male
  • Sex Factors*