Coffee drinking is largely unrelated to psychological well-being, according to new research

Many coffee lovers would tell you that staying well caffeinated is a key component of their happiness, but is drinking coffee actually positively related to wellbeing? A study published in PLOS One suggests that heavy coffee drinking can actually be weakly related to decreased long-term happiness.

Wellness can be associated with many different factors, such as physical health, mental health, social relationships, and lifestyle choices. Healthy choices have been shown to lead to increased wellbeing and happiness.

Coffee consumption has been linked to lower levels of suicidality and depression in previous research, but research has not focused on coffee’s cumulative effect on wellbeing. This study seeks to bridge this gap, knowing that an absence of distress does not necessarily mean there will be an increase in positive effects.

For their study, Farah Qureshi and colleagues utilized data from a US longitudinal study of nurses. Data was pulled for participants who had completed measures on happiness or optimism, who also reported on their coffee intake. For assessing happiness, the sample was 44,449 participants and while assessing optimism, data was pulled from 36,729 participants. Participants completed measures on their coffee consumption, psychological wellbeing, happiness, health behaviors, demographics and optimism overtime.

Results showed a weak association between minimal coffee drinking and long-term wellbeing. Moderate coffee consumption did not have a significant relationship with happiness, while drinking over 4 cups of coffee a day was associated with lower levels of sustained happiness. Moderate coffee drinking had a weak association with greater sustained optimism, but weak and heavy coffee drinking did not.

“Although observed associations between coffee intake and psychological well-being were not appreciable, some small differences were evident,” the researchers said. “Given the large sample sizes used in the present analyses, this study was highly powered to detect even minor differences between women of varying levels of coffee consumption, perhaps resulting in the identification of associations with limited clinical relevance.”

Bidirectional analyzes showed that wellbeing’s influence on coffee drinking was also weak and inconsistent. These results are starkly different than previous research, which pointed to mental health benefits of coffee consumption.

“Prospective studies have found associations between coffee intake and a reduced risk of depression and suicide, as well as between psychological well-being and the adoption of healthy behaviors over time,” the researchers noted. “However, the current study did not find substantive associations between coffee intake and psychological well-being over up to 20 years of follow-up in a large-scale cohort of midlife and older women.”

The study, “Prospective associations between coffee consumption and psychological well-being“, was authored by Farah Qureshi, Meir Stampfer, Laura D. Kubzansky, and Claudia Trudel-Fitzgerald.

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