Can Coffee Make You Less Depressed? What the Surprising Science Says

Updated: May 25, 2021

In addition to a caffeine spike, your next cup of java could give you a surprising mood boost.


If you needed another excuse to grab another cup of coffee, consider this research a blessing to do so.

A comprehensive analysis of 12 studies looked at nearly 350,000 individuals and more than 8,000 cases of depression. Researchers found that caffeine, particularly coffee, had a protective effect against depression. In China, researchers analyzed 15 studies with more than 330,000 total participants. Their results showed that for every cup of coffee people drank, they reduced their risk of depression by 8 percent.

The mood-boosting news doesn’t stop there. Harvard researchers studied 10 years’ worth of data from 51,000 women, none of whom had depression to begin with. The results showed that the women who drank the most coffee (four or more cups a day) were 20 percent less likely to develop depression than those who drank little or none.

Yes, coffee just got more magical than you thought possible. But why is this? The secret is in the brew’s anti-inflammatory properties. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid, ferulic acid, and caffeic acid, all of which reduce the inflammation of nerve cells that bring on depression. Caffeine also has some antioxidant properties, which can help soothe inflamed areas of the brain.

Before you stock up at Starbucks, know that it is possible to drink too much coffee. Some side effects of a heavy caffeine intake include anxiety, headaches, restlessness, and increased blood pressure. If the body experiences these too often, it could actually trigger the inflammation that may contribute to depression.

Once the caffeine wears off, coffee drinkers may experience a drop in mood, and those who are already depressed can feel those effects more strongly. One interesting study found that drinking more coffee decreased chances of suicide, until participants drank eight or more cups a day. Then the risk increased by 58 percent.

So by all means, grab that extra cup of joe, but be sure to limit your intake. If you have some leftover, here are surprising ways to use those spare coffee grounds.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest