An analysis of the UK Biobank data revealed a J-shaped relationship between coffee consumption and the risk of depression and anxiety. Individuals who consumed 2-3 cups of coffee daily had the lowest risk of these mental disorders. However, risks increased for those who drank either fewer or more than this amount. The results were consistent regardless of whether individuals consumed ground coffee, milk coffee, or unsweetened coffee. The study was published in Psychiatry Research.
Both anxiety and depression disorders rank among the top causes of disability worldwide. Anxiety disorder manifests as excessive worry, fear, or apprehension, often intense and persistent, leading to physical symptoms such as a raised heart rate and muscle tension. Conversely, depression is characterized by enduring feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest in previously enjoyable activities. This disorder can also present physical symptoms, including appetite and sleep pattern changes. Both disorders can severely disrupt daily life.
Coffee consumption is a global practice. Previous studies have associated moderate coffee intake with reduced risks of ailments like type 2 diabetes, chronic liver disease, stroke, cancer, and a general lower risk of death. A U.S. study suggested that drinking a cup of coffee daily can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by 9%. Caffeine, a key component of coffee, is believed to influence mental health.
Study author Jiahao Min and his colleagues wanted to investigate the associations between coffee consumption and the development of depression and anxiety. They also wanted to know whether the association differed depending on the type of coffee (instant, ground, decaffeinated) and coffee additives (milk, sugar-sweetened, artificial-sweetened) consumed.
The researchers sourced their data from the UK Biobank, a comprehensive dataset comprising biometric, behavioral, and genetic data accessible to all researchers. This dataset contains data of over half a million adults from the general population of the United Kingdom.
The study focused on 152,821 participants who had responded to online mental health questionnaires as part of the UK Biobank data set. The team utilized data related to depression, anxiety, and coffee consumption. While data about anxiety and depression came from various sources, the coffee consumption data was obtained from online questionnaires completed between 2006 and 2010. These questionnaires included details about participants’ coffee preferences and their typical consumption.
The results indicated that 81% of participants consumed coffee. Among them, 41% drank 2-3 cups daily, 28% had one cup, and the remainder drank more.
Statistical analysis highlighted that individuals who consumed around three cups daily had the least risk of depression and anxiety. Those consuming over six cups daily faced a significantly heightened risk. Consuming 2-3 cups of ground coffee daily was linked to a reduced risk of depression and anxiety compared to non-coffee drinkers. Drinking 2-3 cups of instant coffee daily correlated with a reduced risk of depression, but not anxiety.
Consuming 1-3 cups of unsweetened coffee daily also reduced the risk of depression and anxiety. However, the consumption of coffee without milk, or coffee sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, showed no significant relationship with the risk of these disorders.
“We found that moderate daily coffee consumption, especially at 2–3 cups of ground coffee, milk-coffee, or unsweetened coffee, was associated with a lower risk of incident depression and anxiety. Our findings support the recommendation that moderate coffee consumption could be part of a healthy lifestyle to prevent and manage depression and anxiety in the general population,” the study authors concluded.
The study makes an important contribution to the scientific understanding of health correlates of coffee consumption. However, readers should take into account that coffee consumption was self-reported and this was done only at a single time point at the start of the study. Coffee consumption habits can change and this might change the results. Also, researchers classified them into consumers of just a single type of coffee, while, in reality, individuals can and do drink different types of coffee on different occasions.
The study, “The association between coffee consumption and risk of incident depression and anxiety: Exploring the benefits of moderate intake”, was authored by Jiahao Min, Zhi Cao, Linlin Cui, Feimeng Li, Zuolin Lu, Yabing Hou, Hongxi Yang, Xiaohe Wang, and Chenjie Xu.