|Previous studies have shown that a cup of tea cannot only improve a person’s focus but also ward off depression. Yet, the scientific evidence that specifically focused on the elderly population remained limited until recently / Photo by: City Foodsters via Flickr|
Previous studies have shown that a cup of tea cannot only improve a person’s focus but also ward off depression. Yet, the scientific evidence that specifically focused on the elderly population remained limited until recently. A group of researchers from Fudan University in Shanghai, China and the National University of Singapore suggested that older adults who drink tea are also less likely to be depressed.
Ke Shen from Fudan University’s School of Social Development and Public Policy and colleagues examined the link between the duration and frequency of tea drinking and depressive symptoms among older adults by age group and gender. They based their study on a nationally representative data sample from the Chinese Longitudinal Healthy Longevity Survey (CLHLS).
The Antidepressant-like Effects From the Tea Catechins
Shen and the team wrote that some of the ingredients contained in tea are catechins. A catechin is a flavan-3-ol, which is an antioxidant and a type of natural phenol. Tea catechins could exert antidepressant-like effects and also prevent the reduction of dopamine concentration in the brain. Dopamine functions both as a hormone and a neurotransmitter that plays an important function in the body and the brain. The dopamine pathways in the brain play a role in reward-motivated behavior.
Another major amino acid that researchers highlighted is the theanine that is found in green tea leaves. Such a compound helps lower post-stress cortisol in the body and provides greater subjective relaxation. Caffeine is another important component found in tea, which promotes mood and increases alertness. Lastly, black tea contains theaflavins that protect the body against oxidative stress. How then do all of these findings affect mental health? Shen and the team captured the tea-drinking frequency of 13,026 elderly aged 60 and over, 45.1% of them are men while 54.9% are women.
Four Types of Tea Drinkers
The interviewees at the time of the survey had the option to answer “rarely or never,” “sometimes,” and “almost every day” when asked how often they drank tea in the past and present. The team also classified the tea drinkers based on four types:
1. non-drinkers – these were the people who never or rarely drank tea at age 60 at the time of the survey
2.consistent daily drinkers – elderly who drank tea almost every day
3. consistent drinkers – elderly who drank tea at least sometimes but not consistently every day
4. inconsistent drinkers – respondents who never or rarely drank tea at age 60 or at the time the survey was initiated.
After determining the four types of tea drinkers, the researchers then asked the participants certain questions, such as how happy they were when they were young, if they usually look on the positive side of things, how often they feel fearful or anxious, how often they feel isolated or lonely, or if they ever feel useless as they grow older. The five frequency answers are: never, seldom, sometimes, often, and always. The higher their score, the higher the frequency of their negative feeling is.
The team also divided the participants into three groups to know the disparity in the link between depressive symptoms and tea drinking. The first group consisted of socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, including their marital status, pension status, education, residence, gender, and age. The second group highlighted their health conditions and variable lifestyle, such as whether they are smoking, drinking, and what their activities of daily living (ADL) are. The importance of knowing the ADL is to know whether they can perform these daily tasks independently: feeding, dressing, bathing, toilet hygiene, indoor transferring, and continence. The higher the ADL score means better functional independence.
Further, the researchers examined the covariates (characteristics) of social engagement in tourism and other activities among the third group. All these variations are helpful to clarify the effects of drinking tea on geriatric depression.
Results show a universal link between lower instances of depression and tea drinking. Other factors help reduce the risk of depression, such as being financially comfortable, socially engaged, in better health, married, educated, and in the urban setting. More tea drinkers were urban residents, male, the study added.
Prevalence of Geriatric Depression
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shares that “depression is not a normal part of growing older.” However, depression still affects less than 1% to about 5% of the elderly living in a community and the number is expected to rise to 13.5% among those who need home healthcare. Depression also affects 11.5% of elderly hospital patients. Geriatric depression may, however, be mistakenly attributed to life changes, medications, and other illnesses. Elderly patients may also be reluctant to share their feelings or they are physically frail enough to understand it as a sign of depression.
Symptoms of geriatric depression to watch out for include feeling slowed down, persistent sadness, frequent tearfulness, excessive worries about health problems and finances, feeling helpless or worthless, fidgeting or pacing, weight changes, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping, withdrawal from social activities, and somatic complaints, such as gastrointestinal problems and unexplained physical pain.
Scientific online publication Our World in Data also shares the number of people with depression by country in 2017, including in the data are people of all ages and both sexes. Countries with a high number of people with the condition are China (56.36 million people), India (45.7 million), United States (15.5m), Brazil (7.22m), Russia (6.34m), Iran (4.35m), and Pakistan (5.63m). On the other hand, countries with the least number of people with depression are Chile (734,070.08), Greenland (3,445.14), and Bolivia (314,645.79), among others.
Different Types of Tea for Depression
In 2016, a five-year study that was published in the US National Library of Medicine likewise showed that chamomile tea helps reduce symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. Here are the different types of tea known to help people with depression as backed by research: lemon balm tea, green tea, Ashwagandha tea, and other herbal teas (rose tea, passionflower tea, peppermint tea).
Aside from the ingredients of the tea itself, some people feel relaxed while preparing for the tea and while sipping it.
Given the growing concern about depression, the recent study provides a new perspective to promote healthy living.