What You Should Know:
A new study led by researchers at the University of California San Diego and the University of California San Francisco suggests a surprising link between depression and body temperature. Published today in Scientific Reports, the findings reveal that individuals with depression tend to have higher body temperatures, opening up potential avenues for novel treatment approaches.
Higher Temperatures, More Symptoms
The study, involving over 20,000 participants worldwide, utilized data from a wearable device, the Oura Ring, which measures skin temperature. Participants also self-reported their body temperatures and depressive symptoms daily for seven months.
The analysis revealed a clear correlation: higher levels of depression symptoms were associated with progressively higher skin temperatures. Additionally, the study observed a link between less temperature fluctuation throughout the day and increased depression scores, although this association wasn’t statistically significant.
Exploring Treatment Possibilities
These findings, while not directly establishing a causal link, suggest a potential treatment avenue for depression. Existing research indicates that heat-based therapies like saunas or hot tubs might alleviate depression symptoms, possibly by triggering the body’s natural cooling mechanisms.
“What if we could track the body temperature of individuals with depression and use that information to strategically apply heat-based treatments, leading to a longer-lasting cooling effect?” ponders lead author Ashley Mason, an associate professor of psychiatry at UCSF and a clinical psychologist.
Future Directions and Collaborations
This research builds upon the ongoing TemPredict Study, aiming to leverage skin temperature data for various health insights. The collaboration between UC San Diego and UC San Francisco researchers signifies the growing interest in exploring temperature’s role in mental health.
“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,” said Ashley Mason, associate professor of psychiatry at UC San Francisco Weill Institute for Neurosciences and the study’s lead author. “Given the climbing rates of depression in the U.S., we’re excited by the possibilities of a new avenue for treatment.”
This research effort is sponsored by the Government under Solicitation MTEC-20-12-Diagnostics-023.