Individuals With Higher Depression Scores Report Consuming Less Caffeine

This study suggests that some caffeine consumption may reduce depression.

Caffeine consumption may reduce some symptoms of depression, according to results of a study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry.

Investigators from Third Xiangya Hospital of Central South University in China sourced data for this study from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Responses from adults aged 20 years and older in the 2017-2018 wave of the study were evaluated for the relationship between self-reported caffeine intake and depression scores using the 9-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9). Depression was defined as a PHQ-9 score of 10 or greater.

Study participants reported symptoms of depression (n=244) or no depression (n=3019). The depression and control cohorts comprised individuals with a mean age of 45.0±17.5 and 48.1±17.6 years (P =.01), 41.2% and 48.9% were men (P =.03), 64% and 64.8% were White, 53.2% and 60.5% had higher education (P =.03), 28.5% and 18.7% were never married (P <.0001), and 35.1% and 15.1% smoked cigarettes (P <.0001), respectively.

The cohort with depression tended to report consuming less caffeine than controls (mean, 126.3 vs 143.2 mg P =.05).

With the prevalence of depression reaching 22% worldwide, further research is needed to investigate the causal connection between caffeine and depression, and the different b value in different subgroups, to figure out whether and how caffeine could be applied to the treatment of depression.

In the regression model, symptoms of depression were negatively related with caffeine consumption (β, -0.002; P =.002). Compared with the cohort without depression, those with depression were less likely to consume caffeine (odds ratio [OR], 0.998; 95% CI, 0.9967-0.9991; P <.001).

Significant moderators of the depression-caffeine relationship included never having been married (β, -0.0035; P =.03), not having higher education (β, -0.002; P =.03), female gender (β, -0.0018; P =.04), nonsmoking status (β, -0.0016; P =.01), and higher education (β, -0.0015; P =.03).

In general, the association between caffeine and depression was only significant when consumption was below 90 mg.

With regard to ethnicity, the associations between depression and caffeine consumption were complex, in which the relationships were linear for Asian or Black individuals but not for White or Hispanic individuals. Similarly, the relationship was linear for women but not as linear for men.

This study may have been limited by relying on self-reported caffeine consumption rather than biological measurement.

Study authors concluded, “The present study found that depression was negatively associated with caffeine intake (<90 mg). With the prevalence of depression reaching 22% worldwide, further research is needed to investigate the causal connection between caffeine and depression, and the different b value in different subgroups, to figure out whether and how caffeine could be applied to the treatment of depression.”

References:

Bao J, Li P, Guo Y, Zheng Y, Smolinski M, He J. Caffeine is negatively associated with depression in patients aged 20 and older. Front Psychiatry. 2022;13:1037579. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2022.1037579