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"Major" New Study Reveals Cause of Depression For Many

The clue could be hidden in your stomach.

When it comes to mood disorders like depression, the "why" has long frustrated experts. Why are some people prone to depression and anxiety—which can be debilitating—while others in similar situations experience much more resilient mental health? A new study points to a physical trait that's one intriguing possibility for a potential contributor to (or cause of) depression. In fact, the findings suggest it may be more common than not in people with depression. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What the Study Found About a Potential Cause of Depression

Female scientist working in the CDC laboratory.

According to a study recently published in Nature Genetics, researchers analyzed health data from a 16-year study of nearly 6,000 people in Finland, including information about their genetics, gut microbiota, diet, and lifestyle. 

The scientists examined whether certain genes might be associated with high levels of certain gut microbes and 46 common diseases. They found that two gut bacteria, Morganella and Klebsiella, may be connected to depression, and the former may have a causal link: The 181 people in the study who later developed depression had significantly higher gut levels of Morganella.

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Research Backs Up Previous Study

Middle aged woman suffering from abdominal pain while sitting on bed at home

Previous studies have found an association between gut health and depression and a potential role for Morganella. In a 2008 study, researchers investigating the effect of inflammation on depression found that the immune systems of depressed people had stronger responses to chemicals produced by Morganella and similar gut bacteria.

The scientists say that more study is needed; the field of research into gut bacteria and its affect on mental health is relatively young.

But there are things you can do to maintain good gut health, which can support your overall health, including your mood.

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What Is Gut Health?


The gastrointestinal tract contains trillions of bacteria that experts believe may have far-reaching effects on health. They particularly may affect the enteric nervous system (ENS), a nerve system that's hidden in the walls of the gut. The ENS may cause people who have gastrointestinal disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to experience anxiety and depression, along with physical bowel problems like constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and stomach upset. 

"For decades, researchers and doctors thought that anxiety and depression contributed to these problems. But our studies and others show that it may also be the other way around," says Jay Pasricha, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Neurogastroenterology. Researchers call it the gut-brain connection: Irritation in the GI intract may send signals to the central nervous system (CNS) that cause mood changes.

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How to Get a Healthy Gut

high fiber foods

To maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract, experts recommend eating a healthy diet (especially one that's high in fiber), getting an adequate amount of sleep (seven to nine hours a night), exercising regularly (at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week), and managing stress.

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How to Stay Safe Out There

Doctor had just vaccinated a young female patient in the hospital.

The pandemic raises your risk of depression. A COVID infection can lead to Long COVID, a chronic illness in which depression is a common symptom. Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is a New York City-based writer and editor. Read more about Michael