Food and Behaviour Research

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Associations between vitamin D levels and depressive symptoms in healthy young adult women

Kerr DCR, Zava DT, Piper WT, Saturn SR, Frei B, Gombart AF (2015) Psychiatry Research   DOI: 



  • Depressive symptoms and vitamin D were measured in 185 healthy women across 4 weeks.
  • Significant symptoms and vitamin D insufficiency were common, and differed by season.
  • Initially low vitamin D levels were associated with clinically significant depressive symptoms across follow-up.
  • Between-subjects differences in depression by season were partially explained by seasonal changes in vitamin D.
  • Racial-ethnic differences in depression were partially explained by group differences in vitamin D levels.


There have been few studies of whether vitamin D insufficiency is linked with depression in healthy young women despite women׳s high rates of both problems.

Female undergraduates (n=185) living in the Pacific Northwest during fall, winter, and spring academic terms completed the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression (CES-D) scale weekly for 4 weeks (W1–W5).
We measured serum levels of vitamin D3 and C (ascorbate; as a control variable) in blood samples collected at W1 and W5.

Vitamin D insufficiency (Lower W1 vitamin Dpredicted clinically significant depressive symptoms across W1–W5 (β=−0.20, p<0.05), controlling for season, BMI, race/ethnicity, diet, exercise, and time outside. There was some evidence that lower levels of depressive symptoms in Fall participants (vs. Winter and Spring) were explained by their higher levels of vitamin D3.  W1 depressive symptoms did not predict change in vitamin D3 levels from W1 to W5.

Findings are consistent with a temporal association between low levels of vitamin D and clinically meaningful depressive symptoms. The preventive value of supplementation should be tested further.


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