Botox could ease depression by up to 88%

Alexandra Thompson
·4-min read
Woman during lips augmentation procedure.
Botox does more than just smooth fine lines, research suggests. (Getty Images)

Botox may be associated with the fountain of youth, however, new research suggests the cosmetic procedure could also keep your mental health in check.

While only a microscopic dose is required to smooth fine lines, the medication – derived from a bacterial toxin – can be life-threatening in relatively small quantities.

Read more: Cosmetic surgery booms after lockdown

To better understand the potential complications of the cosmetic procedure, scientists from the University of California in San Diego looked at the side effects experienced by nearly 40,000 patients.

Results revealed having Botox, whether for cosmetic or medical reasons, reduced the risk of depression by up to 88%.

Although unclear, it could “freeze” areas of the central nervous system that regulate emotions, boosting a patient’s mood.

Botox ‘a new treatment to fight depression’

“This finding is exciting because it supports a new treatment to affect mood and fight depression, one of the common and dangerous mental illnesses – and it's based on a very large body of statistical data, rather than limited-scale observations,” said co-lead author Tigran Makunts, a research fellow at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Depression is a common mental disorder that can result in persistent low mood, feeling hopeless and loss of interest in activities the individual once enjoyed.

It can also affect a person physically, with many losing their appetite, sex drive or ability to nod off.

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One in five (19.7%) people over 16 in the UK showed signs of depression or anxiety in 2014.

In the US, around 16.1 million adults (6.7%) experienced at least one major depressive episode in 2015.

While many turn to antidepressants or counselling, these are reportedly ineffective in around a third of patients, prompting scientists to explore options like electroconvulsive therapy and ketamine infusions.

Sad Woman Sitting On Bed At Home
Around a fifth of British adults experience depression or anxiety a year. (Getty Images)

Botox patients 40% to 88% less likely to report depression

Botox, an abbreviation of botulinum toxin, was reportedly discovered in poorly-prepared sausages in the 18th century.

Considered highly toxic, just a 0.0000062mg dose would be required to kill a person weighing 62kg (9st 11lbs), half of the time.

When used cosmetically or medically, a few billionths of a gram are administered, which is deemed perfectly safe.

Far from only smoothing a wrinkled forehead, Botox can also ease migraines, muscle spasms, incontinence and heavy sweating.

Although the risk of complications is small, some develop fleeting flu-like symptoms, bruising or blurred vision.

To uncover any other side effects, the scientists combed through the FDA’s Adverse Effect Reporting System, a database of more than 13 million voluntary reports.

They focused on patients who had Botox for eight different reasons and at varying injection sites, including the forehead, neck, limbs and bladder.

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The results, published in the journal Scientific Reports, revealed those who had Botox at six of the eight sites – not just the forehead – were between 40% and 88% less likely to report depression.

“For years, clinicians have observed that Botox injected for cosmetic reasons seems to ease depression for their patients,” said co-lead author Dr Ruben Abagyan.

“It’s been thought that easing severe frown lines in forehead region disrupts a feedback loop that reinforces negative emotions.

“But we’ve found here the mechanism may be more complex, because it doesn't really matter where the Botox is injected.”

It has been suggested that since Botox eases conditions that may trigger depression, like migraines, it could indirectly boost a patient’s mood.

The scientists stressed the study was not designed to examine the relationship between the procedure and depression specifically.

While participants on antidepressants were excluded, the team noted other prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs could have been underreported, skewing the results.

A clinical trial is testing the effectiveness of Botox on people with depression, however, it is only being administered to the forehead.

The scientists stressed additional clinical trials may therefore be required to gauge the optimal injection site and dose to ease the mental health disorder.