Vitamin D Deficiency May Be a Risk Factor for Depression in Middle-aged Adults

Sarfaroj Khan 


October 26, 2020


  • Vitamin D deficiency (<20 nmoL/L) and insufficiency (20-50 nmoL/L) are associated with an increased risk of developing new-onset depression in middle-aged adults.

  • Moreover, vitamin D deficiency, and to a lesser extent insufficiency, may predict sustained depressive symptoms in those who are already depressed.

Why this matters

  • Findings support the notion that vitamin D deficiency and insufficiency predate the development of depression, and there are a number of potential direct biological mechanisms through which vitamin D might play a role in this development.

Study design

  • This population-based study evaluated the prospective associations between vitamin D status at the baseline assessment (2006-2010) and depression measured at the follow-up assessment (2016) in 139,128 participants (age, 40-69 years) using data from the UK Biobank.

  • Funding: Guy’s Charity; Medical Research Council.

Key results

  • In people without depression (n=127,244), both vitamin D insufficiency (adjusted OR [aOR], 1.13; 95% CI, 1.06-1.20) and deficiency (aOR, 1.22; 95% CI, 1.11-1.34) increased the risk of developing new-onset depression at follow-up.

  • Similarly, both vitamin D insufficiency (aOR, 1.11; 95% CI, 1.00-1.23) and deficiency (aOR, 1.31; 95% CI, 1.14-1.51) were associated with an increased risk of depression in those who were depressed at baseline (n=11,884).

  • When vitamin D was used as a continuous variable, the risk of new depression declined modestly with every unit (nmoL/L) increase in vitamin D in participants:

    • without depression (aOR, 0.996; 95% CI, 0.994-0.997); and

    • with depression (aOR, 0.996; 95% CI, 0.994-0.999).


  • Risk of bias.


Ronaldson A, Arias de la Torre J, Gaughran F, Bakolis I, Hatch SL, Hotopf M, Dregan A. Prospective associations between vitamin D and depression in middle-aged adults: findings from the UK Biobank cohort. Psychol Med. 2020 Oct 21 [Epub ahead of print]:1-9. doi: 10.1017/S0033291720003657. PMID: 33081855.  View abstract

This clinical summary originally appeared on Univadis, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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