Vegetarian diet and mental disorders: results from a representative community survey

Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2012 Jun 7;9:67. doi: 10.1186/1479-5868-9-67.

Abstract

Background: The present study investigated associations between vegetarian diet and mental disorders.

Methods: Participants were drawn from the representative sample of the German Health Interview and Examination Survey and its Mental Health Supplement (GHS-MHS). Completely vegetarian (N = 54) and predominantly vegetarian (N = 190) participants were compared with non-vegetarian participants (N = 3872) and with a non-vegetarian socio-demographically matched subsample (N = 242).

Results: Vegetarians displayed elevated prevalence rates for depressive disorders, anxiety disorders and somatoform disorders. Due to the matching procedure, the findings cannot be explained by socio-demographic characteristics of vegetarians (e.g. higher rates of females, predominant residency in urban areas, high proportion of singles). The analysis of the respective ages at adoption of a vegetarian diet and onset of a mental disorder showed that the adoption of the vegetarian diet tends to follow the onset of mental disorders.

Conclusions: Vegetarian diet is associated with an elevated risk of mental disorders. However, there was no evidence for a causal role of vegetarian diet in the etiology of mental disorders.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet, Vegetarian / psychology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Somatoform Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult