Feeling depressed can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency, research finds.
The study of 12,600 people analysed their vitamin D levels and any symptoms of depression.
The results showed that people who were more depressed had lower vitamin D levels.
As well as low mood, the most important symptoms of depression are:
- Decreased interest in life or pleasure.
- Energy loss.
- Concentration problems.
Foods that are rich in vitamin D include oily fish and eggs, but most people get their vitamin D from the action of sunlight on the skin.
That is why levels are typically lower in the body through the winter months in more Northern climes.
Up to 50% of young women may be deficient in this vitamin, other research has shown.
The study’s authors write that:
“We found that low vitamin D levels are associated with depressive symptoms, especially in persons with a history of depression.
These findings suggest that primary care patients with a history of depression may be an important target for assessment of vitamin D levels.”
The study does not tell us whether vitamin D deficiency causes depression or results from it.
However, vitamin D may affect critical neurotransmitters and inflammatory markers.
Vitamin D levels are now routinely tested during physical exams as deficiencies are linked to other health problems, such as obesity, diabetes and general cognitive decline.
Professor E. Sherwood Brown, study co-author, said:
“Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients — and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels — might be useful.
But we don’t have enough information yet to recommend going out and taking supplements.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings (Hoang et al., 2011).