The Average Human Body Temperature Is No Longer 98.6 F

We’re all chilling out, new research shows

Robert Roy Britt
Elemental
Published in
4 min readJan 15, 2020

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Photo: Faba-Photography/Getty Images

OOne of the most widely accepted standard measurements of the human body, a normal temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, has declined gradually for more than 150 years in the United States by about 1.6% since the pre-industrial era, a new study published in the journal eLife finds. The cooling off owes largely to improvements in health and medicine and in part to increasingly cushy lifestyles, the study’s researchers think.

Many health practitioners are still using the old, inaccurate number of 98.6 F as the presumed norm, which was set by a German physician in 1851.

“Our temperature’s not what people think it is,” says Dr. Julie Parsonnet, a professor of medicine and health research at Stanford University School of Medicine and the senior author of the study. “What everybody grew up learning, which is that our normal temperature is 98.6, is wrong.”

Parsonnet and her colleagues say many health practitioners are still using the old, inaccurate number of 98.6 F as the presumed norm, which was set by a German physician in 1851 based on 25,000 patients in one city.

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Robert Roy Britt
Elemental

Editor of Aha! and Wise & Well on Medium + the Writer's Guide at writersguide.substack.com. Author of Make Sleep Your Superpower: amazon.com/dp/B0BJBYFQCB