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Vitamin D Deficiency Boosts Depression Risk in Older Adults

December 19, 2018

Adults age 50 and older with vitamin D deficiency have a 75% increased risk of developing depression over the next 4 years, suggests a longitudinal study published online in The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine.

“It is our responsibility to now ascertain whether supplementation will influence depression,” said researcher Rose Anne Kenny, MD, head of medical gerontology at Trinity College Dublin, Ireland.

The study included nearly 4000 community-dwelling adults 50 and older who live in Ireland. Researchers looked at vitamin D levels at baseline and incident depression over the next 4 years. Vitamin D deficiency was defined as <30 nmol/L.

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Deficiency in vitamin D at baseline was associated with a significantly increased risk of depression (more than 75%) over the 4 years of follow-up, researchers reported. The finding remained robust after controlling for relevant factors including physical activity, chronic disease burden, cardiovascular disease, and antidepressant use.

“These findings are important,” researchers wrote, “given the high prevalence of vitamin D deficiency among older people, the fact that supplementation has a low risk of toxicity or side effects, as well as the significant adverse effect depression can have on functional status and longevity in later life.”

—Jolynn Tumolo


Briggs R, McCarroll K, O'Halloran A, Healy M, Kenny RA, Laird E. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased likelihood of incident depression in community-dwelling older adults. The Journal of Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. 2018 November 20;[Epub ahead of print].

New study finds vitamin D deficiency is associated with 75% increase in the risk of developing depression in older Irish adults [press release]. Dublin, Ireland: Trinity College Dublin; December 5, 2018

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