People with depression have higher body temperatures, a new study found, giving insight into potential new ways to manage the disorder.
The study, published in Scientific Reports, doesn’t clarify whether depression causes a higher temperature or if a higher temperature can cause depression — but it does suggest that there could be mental health benefits to decreasing the temperatures of those with the disorder.
Researchers at UC San Diego and UC San Francisco looked at data from more than 20,000 international participants who wore an Oura ring to measure body temperature.
They found that as the severity of depression symptoms increased, so did the participants’ body temperatures.
Data also showed a trend where those whose temperatures fluctuated less in 24 hours had higher depression scorers — but the finding didn’t have any significance of note.
Whether high body temperature in people with depression is a result of the inability to self-cool and/or an increased generation of heat from metabolic processes is also unknown.
Participants self-reported their body temperatures and symptoms of depression daily. The study lasted seven months, beginning in early 2020, and included data from 106 countries.
“To our knowledge, this is the largest study to date to examine the association between body temperature — assessed using both self-report methods and wearable sensors — and depressive symptoms in a geographically broad sample,” Ashley Mason, PhD, lead author of the study and associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, said in a statement.
“Given the climbing rates of depression in the United States, we’re excited by the possibilities of a new avenue for treatment.”
Mason, who is also a clinical psychologist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Health, noted how the results can give an idea of how a depression treatment could work.
There have been a few causal studies that discovered using hot tubs or saunas can help reduce depression symptoms, which is potentially due to triggering the body to self-cool through sweating, the news release stated.
“Ironically, heating people up actually can lead to rebound body temperature lowering that lasts longer than simply cooling people down directly, as through an ice bath,” Mason added. “What if we can track the body temperature of people with depression to time heat-based treatments well?”