Interleukin-6 (IL-6) plays a crucial role in systemic autoimmunity and pathologic inflammation. Numerous studies have explored serum IL-6 levels in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and their correlation with disease activity. Here, we performed a meta-analysis to quantitatively assess the correlation between the serum IL-6 levels and SLE activity. The PubMed and EMBASE databases were thoroughly searched for relevant studies up to September 2019. Standardized mean differences (SMDs) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) were used to describe the differences between serum IL-6 levels in SLE patients and healthy controls and between those in active SLE patients and inactive SLE patients. The correlation between the serum IL-6 levels and disease activity was evaluated using Fisher’s z values. A total of 24 studies involving 1817 SLE patients and 874 healthy controls were included in this meta-analysis. Serum IL-6 levels were significantly higher in SLE patients than in the healthy controls (pooled SMD: 2.12, 95% CI: 1.21-3.03, Active SLE patients had higher serum IL-6 levels than inactive SLE patients (pooled SMD: 2.12, 95% CI: 1.21-3.03). Furthermore, the pooled Fisher’s z values (pooled Fisher’s z=0.36, 95% CI: 0.26-0.46, p<0.01) showed that there was a positive correlation between the serum IL-6 levels and SLE activity. This study suggested that serum IL-6 levels were higher in patients with SLE than in healthy controls, and they were positively correlated with disease activity when Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index>4 was defined as active SLE. More homogeneous studies with large sample sizes are warranted to confirm our findings due to several limitations in our meta-analysis.