Walk on the sunny side of life--epidemiology of hypovitaminosis D and mental health in elderly nursing home residents

J Nutr Health Aging. 2012 Apr;16(4):417-20. doi: 10.1007/s12603-011-0361-5.


Objectives: Old age is a well-known risk factor for both depression and hypovitaminosis D, and an association between both conditions has been postulated. We document the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in nursing home residents, and we examine the link with self-reported depressive symptoms and pharmacotherapy for depression.

Design: Cross- sectional.

Setting: nursing homes in Antwerp, Belgium.

Participants: Healthy elderly (n=589), with a mean age of 84 years.

Measurements: We detected depressive symptoms by means of SF-36, a validated quality of life assessment; we registered the use of antidepressants and anxiolytics, and we measured serum 25(OH)D concentrations in all participants.

Results: Almost our entire study population appeared to be vit D deficient. Comparison of the most severely and least deficient subgroups showed a consistent tendency towards more depressive symptoms and more use of antidepressants in the group with the lowest vit D level.

Conclusion: Nursing home residents are particularly vulnerable to preventable vit D deficiency. The relevance of the association with depressive symptoms and the possibilities for treatment are critically reviewed in the discussion.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antidepressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Belgium / epidemiology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / diagnosis
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Homes / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sunlight*
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / physiopathology


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Antidepressive Agents
  • Vitamin D