Background: Inflammatory responses and inflammatory cytokines have been implicated in the pathogenesis of affective disorders, particularly major depression. Given the limited evidence relating to the potential role of proinflammatory cytokines in generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), we aimed to examine peripheral proinflammatory cytokines in Chinese patients with GAD.

Methods: A case-controlled cross-sectional study design, with recruitment of 48 patients with first episode GAD and 48 matched healthy controls. All participants completed measures of anxiety using well-established questionnaires, and serum levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines were measured using multiplex technology.

Results: Serum levels of CRP, IL-1α, IL-2, IL-6, IL-8, IL-12, IFN-γ, and GM-CSF were significantly higher in the GAD group in comparison to the control group (p < 0.05). Pearson correlation revealed significant positive correlations between anxiety measures and serum levels of CRP, IL-1α, IL-6, IL-8, IFN-γ, and GM-CSF (p < 0.05).

Limitations: The cross-sectional study design does not permit definite conclusions on causal directions between inflammation and GAD. The study was limited to a panel of 8 cytokines and does not exclude the possibility of other important cytokines being involved.

Conclusions: These findings indicate an elevated peripheral proinflammatory response, and provide further support for low grade inflammation in GAD. Further research may identify an ‘inflammatory signature’ for diagnosis and treatment response, and guide the search for novel pharmacological interventions.

Keywords: Cytokine; Generalised anxiety disorder; Inflammation; Proinflammatory cytokines.


Tang Z, Ye G, Chen X, Pan M, Fu J, Fu T, Liu Q, Gao Z, Baldwin DS, Hou R. Peripheral proinflammatory cytokines in Chinese patients with generalised anxiety disorder. J Affect Disord. 2018 Jan 1;225:593-598. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2017.08.082. Epub 2017 Aug 31. PMID: 28886500.