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Vitamin D linked to depression in older people

08 October 2010

Research by Institute of Psychiatry at King’s and University College London has found that older people with clinical vitamin D deficiency are nearly twice as likely to have depressive symptoms than those with normal levels of vitamin D, independent of age, sex, social class, physical health status and season.

Recent research has suggested that there might be an association between vitamin D levels and depression and there is some biological evidence that vitamin D may have effects on nerve cells and neurotransmitters that are potentially relevant in depression.

In a study published in Psychosomatic Medicine, researchers investigated the association between low vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in 2070 people aged 65 years and over who had been examined as part of a large community study (2005 Health Survey for England).

Clinical vitamin D deficiency was found in just under 10% of survey participants, while depressive symptoms were present in approximately a quarter. Those with clinical vitamin D deficiency were nearly twice as likely as their fellow participants to have depressive symptoms after adjusting for a large number of other factors.

Lead author Dr Stewart, said “The results were derived from information recorded at a single time point so further research is needed to see whether vitamin D deficiency is causing depression or the other way around. Whatever the case, it is clear that the two problems co-occur more commonly than expected suggesting that the nutritional status of older people with depression needs more consideration by clinical services, as does the mental health status of older people with vitamin D deficiency. “

He concludes: “The findings warrant a larger study and if replicated, correcting the problem could be an effective public health measure to reduce depression prevalence in later life’.

To read the paper in full please click here:

Dr Stewart is Joint Lead Analytical Methodologies Theme at the National Institute for Health Research specialist Biomedical Research Centre for mental health at the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust and Institute of Psychiatry King's College London.  Further info here:



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