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BMC Psychiatry. 2013 Mar 5;13:75. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-75.

The effect of sunlight exposure on interleukin-6 levels in depressive and non-depressive subjects.

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Laboratório de Cronobiologia do Hospital de Clínicas de Porto Alegre (HCPA), da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, Brazil.



The objective of this epidemiological study was to evaluate the effect of length of sunlight exposure on interleukin 6 (IL-6) levels in depressive and non-depressive subjects.


This was a cross-sectional study with 154 subjects (54 males, mean age: 43.5 ± 12.8 years) who were living in a rural area in south Brazil. Chronobiological and light parameters were assessed using the Munich Chronotype Questionnaire. Sleep quality was evaluated using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Depressive symptoms were assessed with the Beck Depression Inventory. Plasma levels of inflammatory cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-6, IL-10, tumor necrosis factor-α, and interferon) were collected during the daytime and measured.


IL-6 levels showed a positive correlation with light exposure (r = 0.257; p < 0.001) and a negative correlation with the mid-sleep phase on work-free days (r = -0.177; p = 0.028). Multiple linear regression analysis showed that only the length of light exposure was an independent factor for predicting IL-6 levels (ß = 0.26; p = 0.002). In non-depressed subjects, exposure to a different intensity of light did not affect IL-6 levels (t = -1.6; p = 0.1). However, when the two depressive groups with low and high light exposure were compared, the low light exposure group had lower levels of IL-6 compared with the high light exposure group (t = -2.19 and p = 0.0037).


The amount of time that participants are exposed to sunlight is directly related to their IL-6 levels. Additionally, depressed subjects differ in their IL-6 levels if they are exposed to light for differing amounts of time.

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