Systemic inflammation and emotional responses during the COVID-19 pandemic

Hamilton, Odessa S, Cadar, Dorina and Steptoe, Andrew (2021) Systemic inflammation and emotional responses during the COVID-19 pandemic. Translational Psychiatry, 11 (1). a6261-7. ISSN 2158-3188

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The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on population mental health is of global concern. Inflammatory processes are thought to contribute to mental ill-health, but their role in experiences of psychological distress during the pandemic has not been investigated. We tested the hypothesis that elevated inflammatory biomarkers (high-sensitivity plasma C-reactive protein [CRP] and plasma fibrinogen) measured pre-pandemic would be positively predictive of increased depressive symptoms experienced during the pandemic. Data were analysed from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA), with 3574 individuals aged >50 for CRP and 3314 for fibrinogen measured in waves 8 (2016/17) or 9 (2018/19). Depressive symptoms were measured with a short version of the Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CES-D) pre-pandemic (2016–2019) and during the pandemic (June/July 2020). Participants with higher baseline CRP concentrations had 40% higher odds of developing depressive symptoms during the pandemic (ORadjusted = 1.40, 95% CI 1.12–1.73, p = 0.003) after full adjustment. Fibrinogen concentrations were also associated with depressive symptoms during the pandemic (ORadjusted = 1.23, 95% CI 1.04–1.46, p = 0.019), but this association was no longer significant after controlling for lifestyle factors (smoking status, alcohol consumption and physical activity). In this large population study, systemic inflammation measured 1–3 years pre-pandemic was associated with greater depressed mood during the early months of the pandemic. This finding is consistent with the hypothesis that higher levels of inflammation increase the vulnerability of older people to impaired mental health in the presence of the widespread stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Aged, COVID-19, Depression, Emotions, Humans, Inflammation, Longitudinal Studies, Pandemics, SARS-CoV-2
Schools and Departments: Brighton and Sussex Medical School > Neuroscience
SWORD Depositor: Mx Elements Account
Depositing User: Mx Elements Account
Date Deposited: 04 Feb 2022 07:56
Last Modified: 04 Feb 2022 08:00

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