Depression, a condition traditionally assessed through psychological evaluation, may have an unexpected physiological marker: body temperature. A recent study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco has uncovered a correlation between elevated body temperatures and depressive symptoms, shedding light on a novel aspect of mental health that could pave the way for innovative treatments.
The comprehensive analysis, which scrutinized data from over 20,000 individuals across the globe, discovered that those experiencing higher levels of depression also tended to exhibit increased body temperatures. Moreover, these individuals showed less variation in their temperature throughout the day. Such findings suggest that our internal thermal regulation could be intricately linked to our mental well-being.
This extensive research project, embracing participants from 106 countries, leveraged sophisticated wearable technology to monitor body temperature in tandem with self-reported data to evaluate signs of depression. The diverse geographic sample provides a robust representation of the connection between temperature and mood disorders on an international scale.
The researchers advocate for the potential mental health benefits from lowering body temperature. They propose that heat-based treatments such as saunas could potentially mitigate depression by triggering the body’s natural cooling responses. Furthermore, monitoring body temperature could help time these treatments more effectively, optimizing their therapeutic impact.
Significantly, this study stands as the largest of its kind to examine the relationship between body temperature and depressive symptoms across such a wide and varied population. The study was funded by the US Department of Defense among other contributors.