Does Depression Affect Your Immune System?
Depression is a complex disease that can be caused and exacerbated by many different factors.It may originate as a mental health disorder, but this disease of the mind soon becomes a disease of the body as it takes a toll on the immune system.
A study that investigated the link between depression and cellular immunity found that depression does indeed depress the immune system (1).The study was conducted on 32 women with depression and a control of 32 women without depression, and one of the aspects was to determine lymphocyte production in response to mitogen stimulation. (A mitogen is a harmless agent a healthy immune system reacts against). The results showed that the depressed subjects had a weakened lymphocyte production in response to the mitogen.Thus their response to harmful antigens would also be weakened, leaving the body susceptible to infection or disease.
There is also evidence that cytokine production is reduced during melancholy depression, thus further weakening immune system function.
As people with depression grow older, their immune system is further compromised by depression.Researchers at Ohio State University conducted a study of 47 people with depression-like symptoms (2).The simple foreign agents that tested their immune systems produced an extreme, long-term inflammatory immune response.This study concluded that depression has long-term effects on the immune system.
Exercise and Lifestyle
Researchers may have also established a link between depression, low levels of exercise, and a depressed immune system.In a controlled study (3), they found that physical activity related to a large difference of immune system functions compared between depressed and non-depressed participants. Further, exercise was shown to improve the function of the immune systems in these patients. Research also found that depression was linked to greater tobacco and caffeine consumption, and poorer sleep quality, which all adversely affect the immune system.
Popular antidepressant drugs like SSRIs have been shown to also boost immune uptake, but this may be too much of a good thing.Researchers are speculating that these drugs might boost immunity to the point that they can actually trigger autoimmune diseases.More research is needed here, but you can add that to the list of reasons to distrust pharmaceutical drugs.
Seeking treatment for your depression is crucial, or you risk serious complications to your physical health too.Exercise is proven to be a very effective way of improving the depressed immune system as well as the actual depression.