Humans are mammals and as such, our bodies regulate and generate a fairly constant body temperature. This is referred to being warm-blooded or homeothermic. Ever since I was a kid, I was taught that a normal temperature for humans is 98.6ºF or 37.0ºC. if the body temperature reached 100ºF, it meant that one had fever and was either sick, fighting an infection or on the way of becoming overheated. The inverse was also true and that if the body temperature went below 98ºF, it meant that something physically was wrong, usually with the heart or circulatory system.
I always wondered about the imperative constant of 98.6ºF, as my younger sister seemed to always run a temperature of around 98.2ºF. With, a fever was anything over 99.5 ºF. My wife also tends to run a lower temperature than 98.6ºF. I’ve also wondered if this could be more normal for females than males, but I discovered that some men also ran lower body temperature and I worked with a woman whose normal temperature was 99.2ºF.
So, what is the real normal temperature for humans?
According to a recent study, the norm is no longer 98.6ºF or 37ºC:
So what is our normal body temperature? In 1851, a German physician called Carl Reinhold August Wunderlich surveyed 25,000 people in one city and established that 37°C is the standard temperature of the human body.
However, recent analyses and surveys suggest that the average body temperature is now lower.
For instance, a study of more than 35,000 people in the United Kingdom and nearly 250,000 temperature measurements found that 36.6°C is the average oral temperature.
For us Americans, 36.6ºC equates to 97.88ºF.
Is this really important and what does it mean over all? That’s what some experts are asking:
Could this discrepancy be a result of changes in measurement tools? Or, do the new findings reflect higher life expectancy and better overall health?
Myroslava Protsiv, then at Stanford University’s Division of Infectious Diseases and Geographic Medicine, in California, and colleagues set out to investigate.
The team hypothesized that “the differences observed in temperature between the 19th century and today are real and that the change over time provides important physiologic clues to alterations in human health and longevity since the Industrial Revolution.”
They investigate the data sets from hundreds of thousands of people and found the following:
- The body temperature of men today is, on average, 0.59°C lower than that of men born in the early 19th century.
- Similarly, women’s body temperature dropped by 0.32°C from the 1890s to today.
- Overall, the analysis found a 0.03°C decrease in average temperature with every decade.
I’m no medical expert but I can’t help but wonder if this decrease in body temperature over the years is not due to our society becoming less physically active and more obese? A sedentary lifestyle of working or playing on a computer all day and evening, has made many of us less physically fit and overweight. Our muscles are what generate our body and if we are not using our muscles as much as in years past, then it only makes sense that they will not generate as much heat as they used to. Personally, this decrease in the average body temperature is an indicator of a physically declining human race as a direct result of technology.