A network analysis investigating the associations between posttraumatic stress symptoms, markers of inflammation and metabolic syndrome

J Psychiatr Res. 2023 Sep:165:105-114. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2023.07.018. Epub 2023 Jul 19.


Chronic systemic inflammation has been implicated in trauma exposure, independent of a psychiatric diagnosis, and in posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and its highly comorbid conditions, such as metabolic syndrome (MetS). The present study used network analysis to examine the interacting associations between pro-inflammatory cytokines, posttraumatic stress (PTS) symptoms and symptom clusters, and individual components of MetS, in a cohort of 312 participants (n = 139 PTSD cases, n = 173 trauma-exposed controls). Pro-inflammatory cytokines were measured in serum samples using immunoturbidimetric and multiplex assays. Three network models were assessed, and the decision on which model to use was guided by network stability estimates and denseness. Weak negative associations were observed between interleukin one beta (IL-1β) and detachment (D6) and irritability (E1); tumour necrosis factor alpha (TNFα) and hypervigilance (E3); and C-reactive protein (CRP) and emotional cue reactivity (B4), which could be due to high cortisol levels present in a female-majority cohort. Network models also identified positive associations between CRP and waist circumference, blood pressure, and high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C). The strongest association was observed between CRP and waist circumference, providing evidence that central obesity is an important inflammatory component of MetS. Some networks displayed high instability, which could be due to the small pool of participants with viable cytokine data. Overall, this study provides evidence for associations between inflammation, PTS symptoms and components of MetS. Future longitudinal studies measuring pro-inflammatory cytokines in the immediate aftermath of trauma are required to gain better insight into the role of inflammation in trauma-exposure and PTSD.

Keywords: Metabolic syndrome; Network analysis; Posttraumatic stress disorder; Pro-inflammatory cytokines; Trauma exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Cytokines
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation
  • Metabolic Syndrome*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology


  • Cytokines
  • C-Reactive Protein