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New study finds mixed results on the relationship of vitamin D and depression among elderly

Posted on: July 19, 2014   by  Vitamin D Council


A recent study out of Italy found that low vitamin D levels were associated with depression only in elderly women, but found no relationship after 4 years of follow-up.

Recent research has been interested in how vitamin D status influences aspects of mental health in the elderly over a long period of time. Few studies have looked at how vitamin D may affect the risk of depression longitudinally in this population.

Researchers conducted a new study to examine the relationship between vitamin D levels and the onset of late life depression.

A total of 1,675 participants from the Progetto Veneto Anziani (Pro.V.A) cohort were enrolled into the study. The Pro V.A. cohort consisted of Italian citizens over the age of 65 years and was designed to evaluate the risk factors for mortality and disability in the elderly.

At baseline, researchers measured vitamin D levels, depression, cognitive function, body mass index and physical performance.

Researchers used the Geriatric Depression Scale (GDS) to diagnose depression. The GDS is a set of 30 simple questions that result in a quantitative score, with higher scores indicating the presence of depression.

The analysis showed lower vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of depression among elderly women, but not among elderly men.

After a 4.4 year follow up, researchers measured depression, cognitive function, body mass index, and physical performance again, but not vitamin D status.

However, this time the researchers did not find any significant associations between vitamin D status and depression.

The researchers found that physical performance was the strongest predictor of the late life onset depression.

“In our large study population, low [vitamin D] levels were only associated with GDS scores in women on cross-sectional analysis, but there was no evidence of any independent association between hypovitamonisis D and incident depression,” the researchers stated.

The researchers called for further research of vitamin D’s relationship with depression in a population with a higher prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.


Toffanello, E. et al. Serum 25-Hydroxyvitamin D and the Onset of Late-Life Depressive Mood in Older Men and Women: The Pro.V.A. Study. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2014.

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