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Scientists have discovered an unexpected treatment for depression

Science and culture

Scientists estimate that 5% of the world's adult population suffers from depression, a mental disorder that negatively affects a person's mood.

Rates of depression increased during and after the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to rise due to issues such as inequality, job loss, and ineffective social support.

Although antidepressants are generally safe for health, they can have side effects such as stomach problems, headaches, sleep problems, sexual dysfunction, weight gain and anxiety, which can sometimes impair a person's quality of life.

 

Now, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, have found that people with depression have higher body temperatures than those without depression, suggesting that new treatments aimed at lowering body temperature - such as heat therapy in a hot bath or sauna - could benefit mental health.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

According to Dr. Ashley Mason, associate professor of psychiatry at the Weill Neuroscience Institute and the Osher Center for Integrative Health at the University of California, San Francisco, and lead author of this study, depression severely reduces quality of life, and existing treatments do not meet the clinical needs of the population.

This led Dr. Mason and her team to explore the potential link between depression and elevated body temperature.

"This link is particularly interesting because there is data showing that when people come out of depression, no matter how much better they feel, their temperature tends to normalize. In addition, there is new evidence that temperature interventions can reduce symptoms of depression. For example, there is evidence that the use of heat treatments, particularly infrared saunas, causes a dramatic increase in body temperature," the scientists concluded.

Dr. Mason says that this increase in body temperature triggers the body's self-cooling mechanisms - such as sweating - and can lead to a subsequent drop in body temperature as the person sweats and cools themselves.

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