Men who adhere to a vegetarian diet may have an increased risk of depressive symptoms, according to data published in the Journal of Affective Disorders.

Joseph R. Hibbeln, MD, from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, National Institutes of Health, Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues used self-report data from 9,668 adult males to determine whether self-identification of a vegetarian diet is associated with significant depressive symptoms in men.

Self-reported data included identification as vegetarian or vegan, dietary frequency, and the EPDS depression scale. Men who self-reported as vegetarian were more likely to have higher levels of education, to live in privately rented accommodation, and to be of non-white ethnic origin.

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On average, men who identified as vegetarian (n=350) had higher depression scores than men who did not have vegetarian diets (mean difference, 0.96 points). Vegetarians also had a greater risk of having an EPDS score greater than 10 compared with non-vegetarians after adjustments for potential confounding factors (adjusted odds ratio, 1.67).

Associations remained stable after adjustments for “vulnerability factors for depression” including a family history of depression, highest educational level, housing tenure, age, ethnicity, marital status, employment status, alcohol and tobacco consumption, and religious identification.

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The researchers noted that factors previously linked to increased risk of depressive symptoms may affect the increased risk of symptoms in vegetarians. “Any adverse effect on mood associated with vegetarian diet may result from contributions from multiple interactive nutrients including both type and quantity of dietary fat intake between vegetarians and non-vegetarians,” they stated.


Hibbeln JR, Northstone K, Evans J, Golding J. Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men. J Affect Dis. 2018;225(1):13-17.