How Might Coffee and Caffeine Affect Our Mood & Our Emotions?

There has been a lot of research on the physiological effects that coffee consumption has on the body. However, few have touched on the potential relationship it has with the regulation of both mood and emotion. However, there has been some more recent studies that indicate that there is indeed a relationship not only with those that are deemed healthy but also those that might suffer from mental illness like depression. I was able to take part in an interesting ISIC roundtable to discuss the science involved with coffee and its impact it can have on mood and emotion. Here are some of the main topics that were discussed.

1. Caffeine and Mood

NPL Expert Luke Mollica explains that “Moods are the states in which we experience without necessarily being aware of them.”

 There is research that indicates that repetitive intake of at least 75mg of caffeine every consecutive 4 hours was able to improve one’s mood throughout the day. This is approximately the amount of caffeine found in the average cup of coffee. Whereas, doses that were low to moderate of caffeine were found to possibly improve hedonic tone which is the degree of either pleasantness or unpleasantness associated with any given state. Also, it was found to have a positive impact on one’s anxiety. Whereas, any higher doses were more likely to cause nervousness, jitters, and even heighten one’s anxiety levels. There has been a lot of research on caffeine that shows that neither high nor lower levels of caffeine intake have shown a lasting effect on physiological health. 

2. Caffeine and Depression

There have been studies that show that caffeine can effectively limit depression and even improve one’s alertness levels. It has also shown to improve one’s attention span. For instance, there was a 2016 meta-analysis that showed that there was a beneficial effect for intakes up to around 300mg of caffeine per day. This is approximately what you would get from 4 cups of coffee. There is more research needed, but it certainly shows promising results. Europe is currently facing one of the more challenging public health problems with 1 out of 15 people per year suffering from depression. Whereas, if you include anxiety in the mix, it’s every 4 out of 15 people.

3. Individual Responses

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As people’s emotions are usually based on their perception of a situation, the responses to caffeine do as well. For instance, any individual that suffers from fatigue is likely to experience very different changes than those who aren’t fatigued at all. Caffeine is typically a stimulant that has a lot more of a beneficial effect on habitual consumers’ moods versus those who don’t consume it often. However, there are typically much greater benefits associated with the performance from those who aren’t regular drinkers or consumers. Sydney marriage celebrant Johan has found that “it is also increasingly likely that the mood effects are driven by not only the consumption of caffeine but also the expectation of having it which can help to boost both mood and attention.”

Weight loss dietitian Lisa Renn believes that “A lot of older people are more sensitive to any mood-altering effects that caffeine can have than younger people. Another thing that can impact the effects on mood is the time the caffeine is being consumed with the most significant effects showing when consumed later on in the morning.

4. Coffee, Mood and Performance

There was a smaller study that showed that caffeinated coffee had a much more positive effect on high-level mood and attention processes than coffee that was decaffeinated. However, the authors of the study did happen to find that decaffeinated coffee was able to not only improve one’s mood but also their performance. This alone brings to light that there are substances that could be leading to mood and performance boosts outside of caffeine. However, a much larger study needs to be done to conclude this.

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