Psychological distress, depressive symptoms, and cellular immunity among healthy individuals: a 1-year prospective study.
Major depressive disorder is associated with increases in infectious disease risk as well as the incidence of inflammatory disorders. Declines of natural killer (NK) cell activity are reliably found in depression, whereas other studies report evidence of inflammation in depressed patients. The potential association between NK activity and circulating markers of immune activation has not been previously examined in the context of major depression. In this study, we measured levels of NK activity, circulating levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), soluble interleukin-2 receptor, and acute phase proteins in 25 male patients with current major depressive disorder and 25 age, gender, and body weight comparable controls. As compared to controls, patients with major depressive disorder showed lower NK activity (p = .05) and higher circulating levels of IL-6 (p < .05). Levels of NK activity were not correlated with IL-6 or with other markers of immune activation. The independent effect of depression on inflammatory markers and natural killer immune responses has implications for understanding individual differences in the adverse health effects of major depressive disorder.