Emory University junior Kelsey Grad was in the library studying for the next day’s Chinese final when, at 2 a.m., her classmate interrupted her to ask if she had finished her sociology essay. Grad quickly panicked as she realized her exam was in six hours and the five-page paper was due immediately afterward.
The solution: coffee.
“Luckily, the library serves coffee 24 hours during exams,” Grad explained. “I probably consumed six cups of coffee between 2 a.m. and 8 a.m. By the time I finished, I felt like I had worn a hole through my stomach, but all that mattered was that the paper got done by the deadline.”
Grad isn’t the only college student who turns to coffee to stay awake. Despite the extensive amount of research linking caffeine to anxiety, heart problems and even cancer, 54 percent of Americans over the age of 18 drink coffee daily, according to the National Coffee Association.
A new study gives college students, especially women, a reason to celebrate their dependence on coffee instead of giving themselves a mental slap on the wrist every time they down a cup.
The study, published in the September 26 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee each day reduced their risk of depression by 20 percent, and those who consumed two or three cups reduced their risk by 15 percent, compared to those who had one cup or less.
These results become even more significant when one takes into account the fact that women are 70 percent more likely than men to experience depression during their lifetime.
While experts say it’s too soon to start recommending coffee as a way to prevent or treat depression, the findings provide comfort to coffee lovers who are constantly confronted with negative information about their “cup of Joe.”
“Coffee saves me every day,” Emory University junior Kara Ciccone said.
Ciccone, who averages three coffees each day, feels a slight pang of guilt when she gulps down her coffee each morning.
“It’s an addiction, and I know that,” Ciccone said. “But if I am really groggy in the morning or have to get through four classes straight, I will drink my coffee with no remorse.”
The study is among the first to explore caffeine’s effects on mood, but experts say the positive connection makes a certain amount of sense.
Caffeine affects the release of certain neurotransmitters, including dopamine and serotonin, which help regulate mood and depression. The connection between caffeine and mood certainly holds true for Grad.
“When I don’t have enough coffee, I am usually not the most pleasant person to be around,” Grad said. “Luckily for my friends, I am very rarely without coffee.”
More research needs to be done on the cause-and-effect relationship between caffeine and mood before experts can definitively conclude that caffeine has an antidepressant effect.
“If it is true that coffee has these health benefits, then I should be happy and healthy for a very long time,” Grad said.