Coffee Banishes Women's Blues

By Will Godfrey 09/28/11

Women who drink at least two cups a day really reduce their risk of depression, finds a large study of nurses.

Caffeinated nurses are happier. Thinkstock

Drinking at least two cups of coffee per day may lower the risk of depression for women, researchers report. Findings from over 50,000 female nurses were analyzed for the study, and those who drank two or three cups per day experienced depression—defined as a doctor's diagnosis and use of antidepressants—15% less often than nurses who drank one cup or none. And drinking four cups or more every day appeared even more effective: these women were found to cut their risk by 20%, with caffeine's effect on brain chemistry believed to be responsible (decaff doesn't work). Coffee drinking has previously been linked to lower suicide rates—although, perhaps counter-intuitively given the traditional connection between isolation and depression, the coffee-gulping nurses were less likely than their peers to be involved in church, volunteer or community groups. But they were also less likely to be overweight, to have high blood pressure or diabetes, and to smoke or drink alcohol, which fits rather better with the latest findings. The link between lack of coffee and depression remains when data is adjusted for other variables. The authors of the study—which is published in the Archives of Internal Medicine journal—warned that all this shouldn't necessarily be taken as a signal for a mass dash to Starbucks: coffee in high doses causes anxiety and insomnia, and the relationship between coffee drinking and reduced risk of depression may be only a correlation, rather than causal. Pregnant women are advised to consume less than 200 mg of caffeine—less than one and a half mugs of filter coffee—per day. That said, previous studies have linked coffee drinking with reduced risk of breast cancer, prostate cancer and stroke. Most US adults drink coffee, which provides over 80% of the nation's daily caffeine dose.



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Will Godfrey is the former editor-in-chief of TheFix. He was also the founding editor-in-chief of, and previously co-founded a magazine for prisoners in London. His work has appeared in Salon, Pacific Standard, AlterNet and The Nation among others. He is currently the Executive Director at FILTER. You can find Will on Linkedin and Twitter.