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.