By Brooke Mallory
4:21 PM – Wednesday, February 7, 2024
Recent research that examined data from more than 20,000 people globally has proposed a unique connection between depression and higher body temperatures.
The findings reportedly showed that body temperature rises with the intensity of depressive symptoms, potentially opening up a new therapeutic option even if the cause-and-effect link is still unclear.
By using wearable technology to assess temperature, the research suggested that heat-based therapies, such as saunas, may be beneficial for depression because they may cause the body to cool down through processes like sweating.
This work highlights a novel way to tackle the rise of depression in individuals worldwide by allowing the possibility of investigating temperature management as a therapy technique for depression.
“Key Facts: The study observed a correlation between increased depression symptom severity and higher body temperatures in participants from 106 countries. It explored the potential of heat-based treatments (e.g., saunas) to reduce depression by triggering the body’s natural cooling responses. This research is one of the largest to examine the association between body temperature and depression symptoms, utilizing wearable sensors and self-reported data,” according to neurosciencenews.com.
However, other related research that was published in Scientific Reports, a peer-reviewed open-access scientific mega journal, was unable to conclude whether depression causes a person’s body temperature to rise or vice versa.
It is also unclear if the elevated body temperature seen in depressed individuals is due to a diminished capacity for self-cooling, an increase in heat production from metabolic processes, or a mix of the two.
“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,” said Ashley Mason, a clinical psychologist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Health.
“What if we can track the body temperature of people with depression to time heat-based treatments well?” Mason added. “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.”