Vitamin D Deficiency in Middle Childhood Is Related to Behavior Problems in Adolescence

J Nutr. 2020 Jan 1;150(1):140-148. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz185.


Background: Vitamin D deficiency (VDD) is associated with depression and schizophrenia in adults. The effect of VDD in childhood on behavioral development is unknown.

Objectives: We aimed to study the associations of VDD and vitamin D binding protein (DBP) in middle childhood with behavior problems in adolescence.

Methods: We quantified plasma total 25-hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D] and DBP in 273 schoolchildren aged 5-12 y at recruitment into a cohort study in Bogota, Colombia. Externalizing and internalizing behavior problems were assessed after a median 6-y follow-up by parental report [Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL)] and self-report [Youth Self-Report (YSR)]. We estimated mean problem score differences with 95% CIs between exposure categories using multivariable linear regression. We also compared the prevalence of clinical behavior problems (score >63) between exposure groups. We assessed whether the associations between DBP and behavior problems were mediated through VDD.

Results: Mean ± SD CBCL and YSR externalizing problems scores were 56.5 ± 9.3 and 53.2 ± 9.5, respectively. Internalizing problems scores averaged 57.1 ± 9.8 and 53.7 ± 9.8, respectively. VDD [25(OH)D <50 nmol/L] prevalence was 10.3%. VDD was associated with an adjusted 6.0 (95% CI: 3.0, 9.0) and 3.4 (95% CI: 0.1, 6.6) units higher CBCL and YSR externalizing problems scores, respectively, and an adjusted 3.6 (95% CI: 0.3, 6.9) units higher CBCL internalizing problems scores. The prevalence of clinical total externalizing problems was 1.8 (95% CI: 1.1, 3.1) times higher in children with VDD than that in children without VDD. DBP concentration below the population median was related to higher YSR aggressive behavior and anxious/depressed subscale scores and to higher prevalence of clinical total externalizing problems. The associations between DBP and behavior problems were not mediated through VDD.

Conclusions: VDD and low DBP in middle childhood are related to behavior problems in adolescence.

Keywords: Bogota School Children Cohort; adolescence; behavior problems; middle childhood; vitamin D binding protein; vitamin D deficiency.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior*
  • Adolescent Development*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders / etiology*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications*