In the paper:

it is presented as an undisputed fact that depression is an inflammatory disease.

For example (the first sentence of the abstract):

We now know that depression is associated with a chronic, low-grade inflammatory response and activation of cell-mediated immunity, as well as activation of the compensatory anti-inflammatory reflex system.

However, AFAIK, we are far from understanding the etiology of depression (perhaps there is no universal one). Sure, there are many correlates (for example – levels of neurotransmitters), but I haven't heard that there a single, accepted cause (except for the cited paper). For the reference, Wikipedia mentions inflammation as one of multiple related conditions in the "Other hypotheses" section.

So, as of now, is it universally accepted that depression is an inflammatory disease? And if not, is it at least one of many mainstream opinions?

Discussion on HN, through which I've learnt about this paper

  • $\begingroup$ Well, an interesting question - from my experience of depressing moods I can surely say that hard menthol candies like black Halls ease the "weight in the chest" sensation, tear the mind out from its current state and kick it into reassessment. This seems to be a purely sensoric relief, but it really does some good job. And, besides, menthol is known to reduce inflammation... $\endgroup$
    – noncom
    Jan 21, 2016 at 11:01
  • $\begingroup$ @piotr-migdal: see drperlmutter.com/depression-microbiome-leaky-gut $\endgroup$ Dec 3, 2016 at 23:17

2 Answers 2


There certainly isn't a single cause of depression. Wikipedia does not list inflammation, so that seems to be sufficient disproof of universal acceptance, and at least one candidate for representative of mainstream opinions. Berk and colleagues (2013) make a pretty convincing case though, so it may only be a matter of time, exposure to the evidence, and someone bothering to update Wikipedia.

For another, partially independent (probably cites some of the same studies), preexisting reference on the matter, check out Psychology Today's article, "The Brain on Fire: Inflammation and Depression: Inflammation and Its Effects on Mood" (Greenblatt, 2011, November 23). It too supports the potentially causal relationship, though I don't see any direct evidence of inflammation causing depression here. You may want to scrutinize it more closely than I have; if you find anything, please comment or edit!


While it is indeed one of the theories, it is by no means not the mainstream one. Nowadays, it seems the neurogenic theory of depression is gaining a lot of support, if one looks at recent publications.

Briefly, the theory claims that impaired neurogenesis prevents replenishment of parahippocampal granule cells that normally inhibit the amygdala – a structure harboring fear and anxiety circuits.

The neurogenic theory also explains some of the correlations between inflammation and depression, namely the involvement of a factor known as NFkB.

If you're interested in knowing more, I'd be happy to recommend readings.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Yes please to recommendations! Though I've already upvoted your answer, so I can't compensate you further myself. We do like references here, but please contribute further to the site in general by whatever means you like. :) $\endgroup$ Mar 5, 2014 at 1:18

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