A morning cup of coffee may do more than provide a boost of energy, according to recent research at the Harvard School of Public Health—in fact, a few daily cups of coffee appears to reduce the risk of suicide in adults by 50 percent.
The research, published earlier this month in The World Journal of Biological Psychiatry, looked at data from three large US studies—in all, a sample of over 200,000 participants studied for time spans of at least 16 years. Every four years, participants answered questions about their caffeine consumption from coffee and other sources (tea, soda, and chocolate).
The results revealed that the suicide risk for those who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee every day was about 50 percent lower compared to those that drank no coffee, very little coffee, or decaf.
Lead researcher Michel Lucas stressed to the Huffington Post that it’s the caffeine that’s primarily responsible for these effects, pointing to the boost of production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline that caffeine provides. All three are important to your mental well-being—serotonin helps regulate mood, dopamine helps control your brain’s reward and pleasure centers, and noradrinaline helps you handle stress.
Of course, as promising as this research is, it’s important to remember that guzzling down a few cups of coffee is no substitute for professional mental help if you’re suffering from depression or having thoughts of suicide. In fact, those who drank more than four cups of coffee a day actually had a heightened risk of depression, and excess caffeine consumption can have unpleasant side effects like insomnia, nervousness, and restlessness. So if you’re struggling with depression, look to your therapist, not your Starbucks barista, for help.