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Impaired Mood Homeostasis Linked With Depression

May 04, 2020

People with low mood and a history of depression tend not to use mood-modifying activities to stabilize mood, according to research published online in JAMA Psychiatry.

“We propose that a fundamental—yet unexplored—underlying mechanism of depression may lie in some people’s inability to stabilize mood through their choice of everyday activities,” or impaired mood homeostasis, wrote researchers.

Mood homeostasis involves choosing mood-boosting activities, such as exercise, when mood is low and reserving mood-decreasing activities, such as housework, for when mood is better, researchers explained. Impaired or low mood homeostasis, on the other hand, would involve engaging in mood-increasing activities when mood is already high and unpleasant activities when mood is already low.

The investigation spanned two large case-control studies. One involved 28,212 people from the 58sec data set, which consists of self-enrolled participants in high-income countries. The other included 30,116 people from the World Health Organization Study on Global Aging and Adult Health, which consists of nationally representative participants from low- and middle-income countries.

Study Suggests Novel Target for New Antidepressants

In the 58sec data analysis, mood homeostasis was significantly lower in people with high mood compared with low mood, researchers reported. In the World Health Organization study, mood homeostasis was significantly lower in people with a history of depression, compared with people without depression.

“At the group level, people with a history of depression showed no evidence of mood homeostasis at all,” researchers wrote. “In dynamic simulations, low mood homeostasis predicted an increase in the incidence and duration of depressive episodes.”

Researchers believe their findings could prompt the development of novel treatments for depression or the maximization of existing treatments such as activity scheduling.

“Additional studies are needed to demonstrate a causal link between mood homeostasis and depression,” they wrote. “We believe our findings thus open the door to new research avenues that may ultimately help reduce the disease burden of depression.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Taquet M, Quoidbach J, Gross JJ, Saunders KEA, Goodwin GM. Mood homeostasis, low mood, and history of depression in 2 large population samples. JAMA Psychiatry. 2020 April 22;[Epub ahead of print].

Natural mood regulation low or even absent in people with depression: how will lockdown affect this? [press release]. Oxford, United Kingdom: University of Oxford; April 22, 2020.

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