Prospective associations between vitamin D and depression in middle-aged adults: findings from the UK Biobank cohort

Psychol Med. 2022 Jul;52(10):1866-1874. doi: 10.1017/S0033291720003657. Epub 2020 Oct 21.


Background: A possible role of vitamin D in the pathophysiology of depression is currently speculative, with more rigorous research needed to assess this association in large adult populations. The current study assesses prospective associations between vitamin D status and depression in middle-aged adults enrolled in the UK Biobank.

Methods: We assessed prospective associations between vitamin D status at the baseline assessment (2006-2010) and depression measured at the follow-up assessment (2016) in 139 128 adults registered with the UK Biobank.

Results: Amongst participants with no depression at baseline (n = 127 244), logistic regression revealed that those with vitamin D insufficiency [adjusted odds ratio (aOR) = 1.14, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 1.07-1.22] and those with vitamin D deficiency (aOR = 1.24, 95% CI 1.13-1.36) were more likely to develop new-onset depression at follow-up compared with those with optimal vitamin D levels after adjustment for a wide range of relevant covariates. Similar prospective associations were reported for those with depression at baseline (n = 11 884) (insufficiency: aOR = 1.11, 95% CI 1.00-1.23; deficiency: aOR = 1.30, 95% CI 1.13-1.50).

Conclusions: The prospective associations found between vitamin D status and depression suggest that both vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency might be risk factors for the development of new-onset depression in middle-aged adults. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency (and to a lesser extent insufficiency) might be a predictor of sustained depressive symptoms in those who are already depressed. Vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency is very common, meaning that these findings have significant implications for public health.

Keywords: Depression; PHQ-9; middle-age; vitamin D.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biological Specimen Banks
  • Cohort Studies
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D Deficiency* / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency* / diagnosis
  • Vitamin D Deficiency* / epidemiology
  • Vitamin D*


  • Vitamin D