Are male vegetarians more likely to be depressed than meat-eaters?

By Tim Cutcliffe

- Last updated on GMT

© iStock
© iStock

Related tags Depressive symptoms Vitamin b12 Vegetarianism Veganism

Vegetarian men are more likely to suffer depressive symptoms than omnivores, according to a new study published in Journal of Affective Disorders.

Vegetarians were found to be 74% more likely than non-vegetarians to score above 12 on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS); indicating a high probability of severe depression.

Similarly, EPDS scores higher than 10 were 66% more prevalent in vegetarians, reported the research team from Bristol University. Scoring above the threshold of 10 indicates a likelihood of mild to moderate depression.

“Here we found that self–identification as a vegetarian was associated with an increased risk of depressive symptoms evaluated both as a continuous scale and using a cut-off of greater than 10 on the EPDS,” ​wrote first author Captain Joseph Hibbeln of the Section on Nutritional Neurosciences, National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, USA.

“To our knowledge this is the first large epidemiological study to show a relationship between vegetarianism and significant depressive symptoms among adult men,” ​he added.

Causation not established

Self- reported data was used from 9668 male partners of pregnant women in The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). The participants self-identified if they were vegan or vegetarian. Results were adjusted for multiple confounding variables.

Researchers suggested that nutritional deficiencies (such as vitamin B12, iron or zinc) common in diets lacking meat might be a possible explanation for the results. However, they could not rule out the possibility of reverse causation; in other words that having depressive symptoms might change individuals’ dietary patterns making them more likely to be vegetarian.

Previous observational studies in males and females have reported similar links between vegetarianism and depression; again without being able to conclude a causal effect of vegetarian diets on mental health.

The researchers even speculate on the possibility that vegetarianism “is a marker for other psychiatric disorders manifesting with symptoms of both eating disorders and depressive symptoms.”

“This study does not resolve the question of whether adoption of a vegetarian diet will increase, or decrease the risk of depressive symptoms,” ​explained the researchers.

“But does suggest that a randomized controlled trial of selected nutrients or foods may be warranted.”


Source:  Journal of Affective Disorders

Volume 225, pages 13-17.  Published online ahead of print.     DOI:  10.1016/j.jad.2017.07.051

“Vegetarian diets and depressive symptoms among men”

Authors:  Joseph R. Hibbeln, Kate Northstone, Jonathan Evans, Jean Golding.

Related topics Research Cognitive function

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1 comment

ATTN: THE FACT CHECK PANEL has Detected this article as: FALSE.



The patients in this study ATE MEAT. They were NOT VEGETARIANS. And NOT VEGANS.

One more time: The subjects labeled "vegetarian" in this study were eating meat. They put meat-eaters into the vegetarian category, and then found they were depressed, and then claimed that vegetarians had more depression, which is false.

The panel obtained copies of this paper, and looked at the Methodology. In TABLE 3 it reports what the subjects ate. This is what the "vegetarians" in this study by Hibbeln ate:
22 of the patients labeled vegetarian in this study ate pieces of sausage.
31 of the "vegetarians" reported they had eaten a meat pie.
14 of them said they eat meat.
37 of them said they had eaten Poultry/Chicken.
4 of the "vegetarians" claimed in this study ate pieces of animal organs and/or intestines (offal).
174 of the "vegetarians" reported that they were eating pieces of fish.
158 of them checked yes that they eat "oily fish"
86 of them said they were eating seafood (shellfish, oysters, etc.)

72% of the men in the study who had checked the box that said they were a vegan said had eaten a beef burger in the last 2 weeks. (Beef meat, not a veggie patty).

In addition to this study's authors classifying meat-eaters as "vegetarian", they also state clearly in the conclusion: "REVERSE CAUSATION cannot be ruled out."

REVERSE CAUSATION means it wasn't that the vegetarian diet caused any depression, instead, reverse causation is when people were originally eating meat, then developed depression, and then (perhaps because vegetarians in proper correct studies have been shown to have better mood and less depression) the depressed meat-eaters decided AFTER they already had depression from their former diet, to go vegetarian. Perhaps in hopes of 'treating' it.

Think of it this way: Cuts are associated with BandAid bandages. If you see a person wearing a BandAid bandage, there is a higher possibility that they have a cut under there. So, you may have a study that links Buying BandAids with Cuts in your skin. Those two things are linked. However, it would only be an unreasonable person who would think "Oh, boy, I better not go to the store and buy some bandaids! If I put a bandaid on my skin a cut may FORM UNDERNEATH IT! I'm not even going to touch bandaids! I might DEVELOP cuts all over myself!" -- It's not that the bandaids cause cuts to form! It's the other way around. It's that people get a cut first, and then go buy a bandaid. THIS STUDY CANNOT DIFFERENTIATE BETWEEN THE TWO. And this article in NUTRAINGREDIENTS even though it ALSO put "CAUSATION NOT ESTABLISHED" goes ON, even after writing that, to report that the authors claim this--> "Researchers suggested that nutritional deficiencies (such as vitamin B12, iron or zinc) common in diets lacking meat might be a possible explanation for the results." So even after writing that there is no causation, the study AND this article go on after this and report a "possible" method of causation. Even though this study did not even test that statement and had nothing to do with it...AND had put meat-eaters into the category that they told people were vegetarian. Both meat-eaters AND vegetarians (still eating milk, cheese, dairy, and eggs) are still ingesting vitamin B12 from animal sources. And in addition it is not scientifically confirmed, through Mass Spectrophotometry and HPLC High Performance Liquid Chromatography that there are 100% vegan sources of Vitamin B12 now. It has now been confirmed that there is Vegan B-12. It is genuine, authentic, non-analog form, human bioavailable vitamin B12 now confirmed in fully vegan sources, such as Agaricus bisporus, purple laver, klamath algae, and more plant sources. One more time on this for those who are about to claim it's the analog form only because 'they read that'--NO. That's not correct. This is full on correct vitamin B12, not an analog. This is genuine B12 now found confirmed in vegan plant sources. B12 is made by bacteria, not meat or livestock animals. And this bacteria can be anywhere in the environment, including plants. These findings are now confirmed from multiple peer-reviewed medical journal sources including the American Chemical Society, the Journal NUTRITION, etc. This is NOT the analog form. So both the conclusion, and the "speculation" in here regarding causation while at the same time saying there is no causation, are dubious.

Once again, this study has been found not only "weak" but has been categorized as false and misleading. And likewise, the source NUTRAINGREDIENTS, by reposting this flawed study is also now questionable in their fact reporting.

Look for headlines or articles referring to a study from BRISTOL by Hibbeln, Northstone, Evans, and Golding, and read the FULL TEXT of the study not the abstract. View the TABLE. Table 3. This study is defective and incorrect.

The supposed vegetarians were ingesting beef burgers, fish, chicken, organs, meat pies, seafood, sausage, and meat.

[Note: The Fact Check Panel is an independent scientific board engaged in order to refute false information and claims being spread in various media. The Panel has no relation to any corporations, agencies, or products, and is non-profit. No conflict-of-interest. It is composed of scientists who have degrees from high level institutes including ivy league universities and who are published authors of studies in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. With specialties in Cancer Research, Nutrition, Astrophysics, Biochemistry, Sports Exercise, and Diet. Members invistigate allegations when reports are received that entities have published false and/or misleading information.]

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