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Coffee: less depressing than church?

Does coffee prevent depression? Does it prevent churchgoing? The first question is considered by a team of researchers in the US, in a report Coffee, Caffeine, and Risk of Depression AmongWomen.

They asked 50,739 female nurses about their coffee consumption, mental health, and other areas of their lives. They found that those who had at least one caffeinated coffee per day (or the equivalent) were 10% less likely to suffer from depression, and those who had more than five were 20% less likely. Decaffeinated coffee had no effect.

Amid the ensuing reports that an espresso a day keeps the shrink away, a blogger called Scicurious at scientificamerican.com noticed that the results were less clearcut. While there was a clear correlation between  caffeine consumption and depression, the survey showed other correlations that the researchers had not flagged up.

The happy heavy coffee drinkers were for example seven times as likely to smoke as the caffeine free. They were 50% more likely to be single, drank more alcohol, and were skinnier despite doing less exercise. And they were significantly less likely to go to church, or do voluntary work every week. It would take a lot to disentangle the web of cause and effect there, but presumably it's not all caused by coffee.