Studies Link Vitamin D Deficiency and Depression in Older Adults

May 14, 2019

Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in later life, with over 13% of community-dwelling older people affected. According to a new study in the May issue of JAMDA, vitamin D deficiency is associated with a very significant (75%) increase in the likelihood of these older people developing depression.

In “Vitamin D Deficiency Is Associated with an Increased Likelihood of Incident Depression in Community-Dwelling Older Adults,” the authors studied nearly 4,000 adults aged 50 and older. They found that the 400 people with diagnosed depression had a higher likelihood of baseline vitamin D deficiency than those without depression. They stressed that these findings remained robust even after controlling for relevant covariates such as physical activity, chronic disease burden, cardiovascular disease, and antidepressant use. The researchers did find that a higher level of education was significantly associated with a reduced likelihood of depression.

The authors suggested that a direct effect of vitamin D on the brain is “an interesting potential mechanism” underpinning its relationship to depression. Alternatively, they offered the possibility that depression and vitamin D deficiency might co-exist as “markers of general poor health in later life or that their relationship may be due to reverse causality,” in that older people with depressive symptoms are likely to exhibit behaviors associated with lower vitamin D levels. At any rate, the authors observed that vitamin D supplementation “confers an overall health benefit with low risk of toxicity or side effects.”

This study was conducted by researchers at Mercer’s Institute for Successful Ageing, St. James’s Hospital, Dublin, Ireland. Click here for more information on the findings above and more details about the study.

Another study, “Effect of Vitamin D Supplementation on Depressive Symptoms in Patients With Knee Osteoarthritis,” found that the use of supplements and an effort to maintain adequate vitamin D levels may help address depressive symptoms in knee osteoarthritis patients. Click here to read that article (in press on the JAMDA website).

To contact the researchers of either article or the JAMDA editor for an interview, please email



JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. JAMDA publishes peer-reviewed articles including original studies, reviews, clinical experience articles, case reports, and more, on all topics more important to post-acute and long-term care medicine. Visit for more information.

About the Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine is the only medical specialty society representing the community of over 50,000 medical directors, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other practitioners working in the various post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) settings. Dedicated to defining and improving quality, we advance our mission through timely professional development, evidence-based clinical guidance, and tireless advocacy on behalf of members, patients, families, and staff. Visit for more information.