Association between high-sensitivity C-reactive protein levels and depression: Moderation by age, sex, obesity, and aerobic physical activity

Song Heui Cho, Ji Eun Lim, Jiseung Lee, Jee Soo Lee, Hyun-Ghang Jeong, Moon-Soo Lee, Young-Hoon Ko, Changsu Han, Byung Joo Ham, Kyu Man Han

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Low-grade systemic inflammation evidenced by elevated serum high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) levels can be a biomarker for depression. This study aimed to investigate the association between serum hsCRP levels and depressive symptoms and to explore the potential moderating effects of age, sex, body mass index (BMI), and aerobic physical activity on the association. Methods: Data of 10,702 adults (≥ 19 years) were obtained from the nationwide cross-sectional Korea National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys of 2016 and 2018. Significant depressive symptoms were defined as ≥ 10 on the Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and high hsCRP level was defined as > 3.0 mg/L. Results: Adults with high hsCRP levels were more likely to have depressive symptoms (odds ratio [OR]: 1.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.07–1.84) and suicidal ideation (OR: 1.39, 95% CI: 1.07–1.80) than those with low hsCRP levels. In the age- and sex-stratified analysis, high hsCRP levels were associated with depressive symptoms in the non-geriatric population (age ≤ 64 years) alone, with a higher OR in males than females. In subgroup analyses, the association between them was observed only among obese adults and adults without aerobic physical activity. Limitations: Causal interpretation is limited due to the cross-sectional design. Conclusions: Our results replicate previous findings of an association between high hsCRP levels and depressive symptoms in adults using a large nationally representative sample. The association between them was more prominent in the non-geriatric population, males, obese adults, and those without aerobic physical activity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)375-383
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Aug 1


  • Depression
  • High-sensitivity C-reactive protein
  • Inflammation
  • Obesity
  • Physical activity
  • Suicidal ideation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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