Vegetarians more depressed than meat eaters: Study explains the link

These factors really favor depression

Johannes Michalak also knows how difficult it is to prove a real link between vegetarianism and mental illness. Because nutrition is only one aspect of many that can be responsible for the development of mental disorders. The psychologist explains that there are primarily three main factors: biology, psychology and social life.

“Biological influences include genetics, for example,” explains Michalak. “Also, whether there were complications during your own birth, how much you move and your diet, it’s all part of biology.” According to the university professor, it plays a role in the psychological aspects of how an individual deals with stress or how their relationships look. Greater sensitivity to stress reduces the possibility of developing mental illnesses. Social life can also influence whether one will develop depression, anxiety disorders or some other illness of this kind. Those who receive support, are valued in their work and have sufficient participation in society are less likely to become mentally ill.

The interaction of these three factors is ultimately responsible for mental health. However, the psychologist has an explanation for why vegetarians are more prone to depression, according to his first research.

Which came first – depression or vegetarianism?

After the evaluation, Johannes Michalak and his research team finally asked the important question, which came first – depression or vegetarianism? This perspective put the whole study in a different light.

“The majority of those examined first suffered from a physical illness, and then started to stick to a vegetarian diet,” says the psychologist. He concludes that a vegetarian diet cannot be interpreted as a cause of depression.

The research team also offers additional opportunities to interpret the results of their studies. With a vegetarian diet, the body may no longer have all the necessary nutrients. For example, omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B12, which can affect mood, are often overlooked. Another possibility is that people who tend to be perfectionists and neurotics are more likely to choose a vegetarian lifestyle. However, these characteristics also promote mental illness. However, vegetarianism can also be the result of mental illness: fear of drugs in food can lead to a conscious avoidance of meat. The fact that vegetarians are still under some pressure to explain to non-vegetarians can also have a psychological impact.

Despite the results of his own study, Michalak believes that a vegetarian diet is safe for people with (or predisposed to) a mental disorder. “I don’t want to give a general recommendation. A lot of fruit is very good for one body, but not for another. But you can simply test how your body works on a vegetarian diet.”


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