First published: 10 September 2018 https://doi.org/10.1002/da.22790
Anxiety is characterized by prolonged preparation for real or perceived threat. This may manifest both as psychological and physiological activation, ultimately leading to greater risk for poor health. Chronic inflammation may play an integral role in this relationship, given the influential role that it has in chronic illness. The aim of this meta‐analysis is to examine levels of chronic inflammation, measured by inflammatory cytokines and C‐reactive protein, in people with anxiety disorders, PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder), or obsessive–compulsive disorder compared to healthy controls. Several moderating variables, including specific diagnosis and depression comorbidity, were also assessed.
Seventy six full‐text articles were screened for eligibility with 41 studies ultimately included in analysis.
Results demonstrated a significant overall difference between healthy controls (HCs) and people with anxiety disorders in pro‐inflammatory cytokines (P = 0.013, Hedge’s g = –0.39), which appears to be largely driven by interleukin‐1β (IL‐1β; P = 0.009, Hedge’s g = –0.50), IL‐6 (P < 0.001, Hedge’s g = –0.93), and tumor necrosis factor‐α (P = 0.030, Hedge’s g = –0.56). Moderation analyses revealed a moderating effect of diagnosis (P = 0.050), as only individuals with PTSD demonstrated differences in inflammation between HCs (P = 0.004, Hedge’s g = –0.68).
These data demonstrate the association between inflammatory dysregulation and diagnoses associated with chronic, impactful, and severe anxiety and provides insight into the way that anxiety, and in particular PTSD, is related to certain inflammatory markers. In doing so, these findings may provide an initial step in disentangling the relationship between anxiety and basic health processes.