Stress, Depression, and Inflammation

Inflammation is a risk factor for many aging problems such as metabolic syndrome, Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and frailty (Jaremka et al., 2013). Inflammation can be enhanced by stress and depression, such as in the condition of troubled relationships. Compared with less stressed people, those who are in troubled relationships and who are stressed and depressed often have higher risks for health disorders.

Inflammation and proinflammatory cytokines including interleukin 6 (IL-6) may be involved in the depression-associated morbidity and mortality. A recent study confirmed that depression may enhance stress responses and the production of IL-6 (Fagundes et al., 2012).

For example, stress and depression have been associated with overweight and obesity, and adipose tissue has been found to be involved in the production of proinflammatory cytokines (Jaremka et al., 2013). Stress and depression, such as those in troubled relationships, may have synergistic effects on inflammation and the interaction can be bidirectional. Depression may intensify the stress responses and increase inflammation, while inflammation may in turn enhance depression.

However, personalized understanding of such interactions is still necessary as individuals may respond differently at different moments. Some stressors have stronger connections with inflammation and may cause higher risks to health in certain people at certain time.

On the other hand, psychological and social resources may provide certain protections from the negative effects caused by stress and inflammation. More studies in psychoneuroimmunology are still needed for a better understanding of the interactions among stress, depression, troubled relationships, inflammation, and health problems.


Jaremka LM, Lindgren ME, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Synergistic relationships among stress, depression, and troubled relationships: insights from psychoneuroimmunology. Depress Anxiety. 2013 Apr;30(4):288-96. doi: 10.1002/da.22078.

Fagundes CP, Glaser R, Hwang BS, Malarkey WB, Kiecolt-Glaser JK. Depressive symptoms enhance stress-induced inflammatory responses. Brain Behav Immun. 2013 Jul;31:172-6. doi: 10.1016/j.bbi.2012.05.006.

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