A recent study led by UC San Francisco suggests that individuals with depression exhibit elevated body temperatures, raising the possibility of potential mental health benefits through temperature reduction in those with the disorder. Published in Scientific Reports, the study, conducted over seven months with data from more than 20,000 participants across 106 countries, utilized devices to measure body temperature and daily self-reports of both temperature and depression symptoms.
The study’s findings indicate a correlation between increased levels of depression severity and higher body temperatures. However, it remains unclear whether depression leads to elevated body temperature or if a higher temperature contributes to depression. The observed temperature patterns in individuals with depression do not conclusively point to a reduced ability to self-cool, heightened metabolic heat generation, or a combination of both.
Ashley Mason, PhD, the lead author of the study and an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, suggests that these results offer insights into potential novel depression treatment methods. Existing studies have hinted at the positive effects of heat-based treatments, such as using hot tubs or saunas, which may induce body temperature lowering through mechanisms like sweating.
Mason highlights the intriguing possibility of tracking the body temperature of individuals with depression to optimize the timing of heat-based interventions. The study, considered the largest to date examining the association between body temperature and depressive symptoms, opens up new avenues for understanding and treating depression, especially in the context of rising depression rates in the United States.
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