Could Heat Therapy One Day Treat Depression?

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Depression may be associated with a slightly elevated body temperature, according to a new study that raises some intriguing questions about whether there might be mental health benefits to helping some people lower their temperatures.

For the study, scientists examined data from more than 20,000 people who wore devices to measure their temperatures and also provided daily reports on their temperatures and depression symptoms over a seven-month period. Researchers found that as people reported increasingly severe depression symptoms, they also had higher body temperatures, according to study results published in Scientific Reports.

“These data are exciting because they point to the potential of a unique body-based treatment for depression that doesn’t involve medications or traditional psychotherapy,” says lead study author Ashley Mason, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of California in San Francisco. “We might be able to intervene directly on body temperature to address depression symptoms.”

Does Depression Affect Body Temperature — or Vice Versa?

It only took a slight increase in body temperature — 0.1 degrees C (roughly 0.2 degrees F) — for people to have a significantly greater chance of experiencing depression symptoms.

There are, however, a lot of questions left unanswered by the study.

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