A recent study conducted by UC San Francisco suggests that there may be a correlation between body temperature and depression. The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that individuals with depression generally have higher body temperatures. This discovery raises the possibility that lowering body temperature could have a positive impact on mental health for those with the disorder.
The study does not definitively determine whether depression causes an increase in body temperature or if higher temperatures contribute to the development of depression. Furthermore, it is still unclear whether the higher body temperature observed in individuals with depression is a result of reduced ability to self-cool, increased heat generation from metabolic processes, or a combination of both factors.
To conduct the study, researchers analyzed data from over 20,000 participants from 106 countries. These individuals wore a device that measured body temperature and self-reported their temperature and daily depression symptoms over a seven-month period beginning in early 2020.
The results revealed that as the severity of depression symptoms increased, participants exhibited higher body temperatures. Additionally, the data indicated a potential association between less temperature fluctuation throughout a 24-hour period and higher depression scores, although this finding did not reach statistical significance.
The findings provide insights into potential mechanisms of a novel treatment approach for depression. Previous research has shown that activities such as using hot tubs or saunas can reduce depression symptoms, possibly by stimulating the body’s self-cooling mechanisms through sweating. Interestingly, the study also highlights that increasing body temperature can lead to prolonged lowering of body temperature, even more so than direct cooling methods such as ice baths.
Lead author Ashley Mason, Ph.D., who is an associate professor of psychiatry at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences and a clinical psychologist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Health, believes that tracking the body temperature of individuals with depression could help optimize the timing of heat-based treatments. This novel avenue for treatment shows promise, especially considering the rising rates of depression in the United States.
Mason also emphasizes that this study is the largest of its kind to examine the association between body temperature and depressive symptoms, incorporating both self-report methods and wearable sensors. The geographically diverse sample adds credibility to the findings and opens up possibilities for further research in this area.
Although this study provides valuable insights, more research is needed to fully understand the relationship between body temperature and depression. Nevertheless, the findings offer a potential new direction for the treatment of depression, which could bring hope to the increasing number of people affected by this mental health condition.
1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research
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