Screening for Vitamin D Deficiency in Adults: Updated Evidence Report and Systematic Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force

JAMA. 2021 Apr 13;325(14):1443-1463. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.26498.


Importance: Low serum vitamin D levels have been associated with adverse clinical outcomes; identifying and treating deficiency may improve outcomes.

Objective: To review the evidence about screening for vitamin D deficiency in adults.

Data sources: PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane Library, and trial registries through March 12, 2020; bibliographies from retrieved articles, outside experts, and surveillance of the literature through November 30, 2020.

Study selection: Fair- or good-quality, English-language randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of screening with serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25[OH]D) compared with no screening, or treatment with vitamin D (with or without calcium) compared with placebo or no treatment conducted in nonpregnant adults; nonrandomized controlled intervention studies for harms only. Treatment was limited to studies enrolling or analyzing participants with low serum vitamin D levels.

Data extraction and synthesis: Two reviewers assessed titles/abstracts and full-text articles, extracted data, and assessed study quality; when at least 3 similar studies were available, meta-analyses were conducted.

Main outcomes and measures: Mortality, incident fractures, falls, diabetes, cardiovascular events, cancer, depression, physical functioning, and infection.

Results: Forty-six studies (N = 16 205) (77 publications) were included. No studies directly evaluated the health benefits or harms of screening. Among community-dwelling populations, treatment was not significantly associated with mortality (pooled absolute risk difference [ARD], 0.3% [95% CI, -0.6% to 1.1%]; 8 RCTs, n = 2006), any fractures (pooled ARD, -0.3% [95% CI, -2.1% to 1.6%]; 6 RCTs, n = 2186), incidence of diabetes (pooled ARD, 0.1% [95% CI, -1.3% to 1.6%]; 5 RCTs, n = 3356), incidence of cardiovascular disease (2 RCTs; hazard ratio, 1.00 [95% CI, 0.74 to 1.35] and 1.09 [95% CI, 0.68 to 1.76]), incidence of cancer (2 RCTs; hazard ratio, 0.97 [95% CI, 0.68 to 1.39] and 1.01 [95% CI, 0.65 to 1.58], or depression (3 RCTs, various measures reported). The pooled ARD for incidence of participants with 1 or more falls was -4.3% (95% CI, -11.6% to 2.9%; 6 RCTs). The evidence was mixed for the effect of treatment on physical functioning (2 RCTs) and limited for the effect on infection (1 RCT). The incidence of adverse events and kidney stones was similar between treatment and control groups.

Conclusions and relevance: No studies evaluated the direct benefits or harms of screening for vitamin D deficiency. Among asymptomatic, community-dwelling populations with low vitamin D levels, the evidence suggests that treatment with vitamin D has no effect on mortality or the incidence of fractures, falls, depression, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, or adverse events. The evidence is inconclusive about the effect of treatment on physical functioning and infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls
  • Adult
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Cholecalciferol / therapeutic use*
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening* / adverse effects
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Vitamin D / analogs & derivatives
  • Vitamin D / blood*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / blood
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / complications
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / diagnosis*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / mortality
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol
  • 25-hydroxyvitamin D