Higher Healthy Eating Index-2005 scores associated with reduced symptoms of depression in an urban population: findings from the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity Across the Life Span (HANDLS) study

J Am Diet Assoc. 2010 Mar;110(3):383-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.11.025.


Background: Depression affects more than 15 million Americans in a given year. Compared to physical health, less is known about the affect of diet quality on symptoms of depression.

Objective: This study investigated the relationship between diet quality and reported symptoms of depression in a low-income urban population.

Subjects/setting: Subjects included 1,118 African-American and white adults, aged 30 to 64 years, living in Baltimore, MD, and represented a subsample of the initial examination and recruitment phase of the Healthy Aging in Neighborhoods of Diversity across the Life Span study.

Methods: Nutrition data were based on two 24-hour dietary recalls collected by trained interviewers using the US Department of Agriculture Automated Multiple Pass Method. Diet quality was calculated using the US Department of Agriculture Healthy Eating Index (HEI)-2005. Depressive symptoms were assessed by a trained interviewer using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale.

Statistical analysis: Both linear and logistic regression analyses were used to examine whether or not diet quality was associated with depressive symptoms. The dependent variable was depressive symptoms and independent variables included HEI-2005, race, sex, age, education, income, and food-assistance program participation.

Results: Mean HEI-2005 score was 52.17+/-0.40 (out of 100). Mean Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale score was 11.64+/-0.25 (out of 40). Diet quality was significantly associated with reported symptoms of depression. However, income was a significantly stronger predictor of depression compared to diet quality, education, and sex.

Conclusions: Registered dietitians should be aware of relationships between psychological status and nutritional health when assisting clients to better manage their food choices to improve their overall health and quality of life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aging / psychology
  • Baltimore / epidemiology
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / psychology
  • Diet / standards*
  • Diet Surveys*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychometrics
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Whites / psychology
  • Whites / statistics & numerical data