Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Depression, antidepressant medications, and risk of Clostridium difficile infection

Mary A M Rogers1*, M Todd Greene1, Vincent B Young1, Sanjay Saint12, Kenneth M Langa12, John Y Kao1 and David M Aronoff1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Internal Medicine, University of Michigan, 016-440E NCRC, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2800, USA

2 Ann Arbor Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

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BMC Medicine 2013, 11:121  doi:10.1186/1741-7015-11-121

Published: 7 May 2013



An ancillary finding in previous research has suggested that the use of antidepressant medications increases the risk of developing Clostridium difficile infection (CDI). Our objective was to evaluate whether depression or the use of anti-depressants altered the risk of developing CDI, using two distinct datasets and study designs.


In Study 1, we conducted a longitudinal investigation of a nationally representative sample of older Americans (nā€‰=ā€‰16,781), linking data from biennial interviews to physician and emergency department visits, stays in hospital and skilled nursing facilities, home health visits, and other outpatient visits. In Study 2, we completed a clinical investigation of hospitalized adults who were tested for C. difficile (nā€‰=ā€‰4047), with cases testing positive and controls testing negative. Antidepressant medication use prior to testing was ascertained.


The population-based rate of CDI in older Americans was 282.9/100,000 person-years (95% confidence interval (CI)) 226.3 to 339.5) for individuals with depression and 197.1/100,000 person-years for those without depression (95% CI 168.0 to 226.1). The odds of CDI were 36% greater in persons with major depression (95% CI 1.06 to 1.74), 35% greater in individuals with depressive disorders (95% CI 1.05 to 1.73), 54% greater in those who were widowed (95% CI 1.21 to 1.95), and 25% lower in adults who did not live alone (95% CI 0.62 to 0.92). Self-reports of feeling sad or having emotional, nervous or psychiatric problems at baseline were also associated with the later development of CDI. Use of certain antidepressant medications during hospitalization was associated with altered risk of CDI.


Adults with depression and who take specific anti-depressants seem to be more likely to develop CDI. Older adults who are widowed or who live alone are also at greater risk of CDI.

Clostridium difficile; Colitis; Depression; Antidepressant medication