Vegetarians More Likely To Be Depressed Than Meat-Eaters – Here’s the Science Behind It

Sad Woman Eating Salad

According to a new study, meat-eaters are less likely to be depressed compared to vegetarians.

According to a new study, vegetarians have around twice as many depressive episodes as meat-eaters.

The study, published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, is based on survey data from Brazil. It chimes with previous research that found higher rates of depression among those who do not eat meat. However, the new study indicates that this link exists independent of nutritional intake.

According to a Gallup poll, about 5% of the U.S. population considers themselves vegetarian. Women are about 50% more likely to be vegetarian than men. People who consider themselves liberal are far more likely to be vegetarian than conservatives or moderates.

It may seem straightforward to look at an association between a diet and specific health problems and assume that the former is causing the latter via some form of nutritional deficiency.

However, the new analysis took into account a wide range of nutritional factors, including total calorie intake, protein intake, micronutrient intake, and the level of food processing. This suggests that the higher rates of depression among vegetarians are not caused by the nutritional content of their diet.

So what might explain the link between vegetarianism and depression? Is there some non-nutritional mechanism that makes the former cause the latter? Or is the relationship down to something else entirely?

Sad Vegetables

There are multiple possible reasons why there is a link between vegetarianism and depression.

First, it is possible that being depressed causes people to be more likely to become vegetarian rather than the other way around. The symptoms of depression can include rumination on negative thoughts, as well as feelings of guilt.

Assuming that depressed and non-depressed people are equally likely to encounter the upsetting truth of slaughterhouses and factory farming, it is possible that depressed people are more likely to ruminate on those thoughts, and more likely to feel guilty for their part in creating the demand.

The depressed vegetarian, in this case, is not necessarily wrong to think this way. While depression is sometimes characterized as having unrealistically negative perceptions, there is evidence to suggest that people with mild to moderate depression have more realistic judgments about the outcome of uncertain events and more realistic perceptions of their own roles and abilities.

In this case, there really is cruel treatment of animals in meat production. And this really is caused by consumer demand for cheap meat.

Pig Farm

Sometimes in factory farming, animals really are treated cruelly.

Second, it is possible that adhering to a vegetarian diet causes depression for reasons other than nutrition. Even if there is no “happy nutrient” lacking in a vegetarian diet, it could be the case that forgoing meat causes depression through other means.

For example, adopting a vegetarian diet might affect one’s relationship with others and involvement in social activities. In fact, it is sometimes associated with teasing or other forms of social ostracism.

Notably, the new study is based on survey data collected in Brazil, a country famous for its meat-heavy diet. Some survey data has pointed to a sharp increase in vegetarianism in Brazil in recent years, going from 8% in 2012 to 16% in 2018. However, the recent paper surveyed over 14,000 Brazilians and found just 82 vegetarians – scarcely more than half a percent.

One has to wonder if the same link between vegetarianism and depression would be observed in India or other countries where vegetarianism is more of a social norm. More importantly, as the rate of vegetarianism increases in the UK and other developed countries, will we see the relationship disappear over time?

Finally, it is possible that neither vegetarianism nor depression causes the other, but both are associated with some third factor. This could be any number of characteristics or experiences that are associated with both vegetarianism and depression.

For example, women are more likely than men to be vegetarian, and also more likely to experience depression. However, the Brazilian study took sex into account, ruling out this particular third variable.

Not examined

One variable that was not examined, but is plausibly linked to both vegetarianism and depression, is exposure to violent images of the meat industry. Preventing cruelty to animals is the most commonly cited reason vegetarians give for avoiding meat.

Documentaries like Dominion and Earthlings that depict the cruelty in the meat industry cannot readily be described as feel-good films. One can easily imagine that a person who consumes this kind of media would become both vegetarian and, especially when most people choose to look the other way, depressed.

There are several possible reasons for the link between vegetarianism and depression. This new study suggests that vegetarian nutrition is not the cause of depression.

Instead, the vegetarian social experience may contribute to depression, depression may cause an increased likelihood of becoming vegetarian, or both vegetarianism and depression may be caused by a third variable, such as exposure to violent meat industry imagery.

Written by Chris Bryant, Honorary Research Associate, Department of Psychology, University of Bath.

This article was first published in The Conversation.The Conversation

19 Comments on "Vegetarians More Likely To Be Depressed Than Meat-Eaters – Here’s the Science Behind It"

  1. the article seems to ignore the most obvious causal factor — that meat is delicious and eating delicious foods makes people happier.

  2. Women are more likely to be depressed and more likely to be vegetarian, but they accounted for that, so this particular third factor was not the cause of the link.

    However, they ignored a much more likely third factor. Women are only 50% more likely to be vegetarian than men. Yet liberals are about 500% more likely to be vegetarian than conservatives or moderates. Liberals are also far more likely to have depression and other mental health problems. So, this could easily explain the association of vegetarianism and depression.

    • Undoubtedly correct, but I don’t think they want to go there.

      • Oh let’s go there. Conservatives don’t care about the planet, other people, or the consequences of their actions, in fact they feel entitled to be free from consequence as we’ve been repeatedly shown. No i don’t think it’s being liberal or vegetarian that causes depression. It’s one particular group that causes depression for everyone else, even themselves.. Conservatives.

        • Well, that’s what the information pushers would have you believe, but that’s simply not true. I’ve been a conservative for most of my live, but I also have reasonable compassion for both my fellow man and the environment that surrounds us. I believe in personal responsibility and accountability. There are many more who believe as I do. Yet, the people who politicize and weaponize contrary beliefs gain power over you by feeding you the narrative that we are all evil people who want to burn down the planet. All I can say to that is when someone feeds you a narrative, follow the money and examine the motives.

        • That’s broad generalisation, not all conservative/Republican voters are stone cold sociopaths, but most entitled, uncaring, myopic thinkers are Republican, which is demonstrable by their political policy as well as party ideology.
          Voters don’t often agree with all the policies of their chosen party, but with select policy that matches their own views; or in many cases because they/their family always voted for that party/tribe and never gave it much thought, or just because their husband told them to.

  3. I’d like to see this expanded to a wider study, including India which has a traditional vegetarian diet with few processed products, along with USA which has a large consumption of highly processed vegetarian foods, and determining whether it’s a nutritional factor or environmental/ psychological factor that leads to the depression association.

  4. Two anti plant based stories from this publisher in a few days?
    First of which was ludicrous. I haven’t read this article yet but can imagine similar.

  5. Ah, I see. So it’s nothing to do with diet. But guilt for animals and maybe disagreeing with family and peers.

    As more people adopt a plantbased diet, then these factors will be less and less paramount.

  6. There are so many layers of BS and propaganda that I doubt I could scratch the surface except to say I’ve been a vegetarian for over 45 years and I’m very very happy, including my wife and children.

  7. What a tortured process of trying to find reasons to support a false idea! It could be due slow brain from no meat in the diet.

  8. I suffered from depression UNTIL I adopted a WFPB high carb low fat diet VEGAN. It was like night and day and I couldn’t believe the dramatic impact going vegan had on my well being overall. This article is based on circumstances and not on nutrition and food.. what a loaf of crap.

  9. In the west , they haven’t really had tasty mainstream Indian vegetarian food. Indian vegetarians have an ancient food and spice culture that has been perfected over time. And the variety is practically endless. I can bet Indian vegetarians haven’t compromised on taste and certainly not depressed about the taste of food. Cruelty to animals may certainly be a factor and there are plenty of other reasons to get depressed about in the world, but tasty vegetarian food shouldn’t be one.

  10. Unadulterated BS. India the home of vegetarians don’t figure in this list of countries popping anti depressants It is only the barbaric countries that Havel depression which could be the reason US is at war for~229 years since1776

  11. Oh yes, Ive watched plenty of programs from India, on a network called WION. Very interesting, for a mainly vegetarian diet they have rates of diabetes rivalling the US. And considering most in the US eat a nearly vegetarian diet – think french fries, breads, doughnuts, cereals,cookies, fruit speads, rice and all filled with sugars, a diet like that Is depressing and fattening. Where do you think the money is ….

  12. Some people are just done, no matter they eat

    Also, the cure for the world’s problems, just think

    Mass shootings are an act of war

    Under the Patriot Act mass shootings should be in Guantanamo or elsewhere, and it is not cruel nor unusual to put someone through what they put each and every life through. Did he piss on the victims family and smile saying he wants them to decide his fate, is smile and say hey, we heard you, you go through suffering for each life, put that on the news and see who wants to do the next one.

    They crucifufy one innocent person and do away with Justice, even Nero burned down half of Rome. Bring back the Centurion

    When Justice is illegal they just disappear

    I’m surprised after trying to whack every power group intelligence agency military mob officer and government and free person with viruses that people aren’t on crosses in for sale churches, Jimmy spread the plastic

    I thought after this Munich was going to be a drop in the bucket

    Apparently you can spray viruses over everyone, or put a gun to everyone’s head, and for most it went click, but they live with altered health after getting either virus or vac, even an showed immune system, maybe people went home and an Italian can watch their father suffocate for 13 minutes and down in their lungs, that’s just a special deago right? Unbelievable

    How to fix the world easy and make money

    Why make more sick people for money make SpaceX jobs changing diapers isn’t a dream job

    Most people don’t want to be here anyway, even with no food

    The problem is that the world is really smart, those that want to live forever run it and think everyone else wants to live forever too. 45-65 prevent of the planet would say thanks for a synthetic opioid drink and finally get to get out of this existence. The world would only be full of people that actually want to be here, and everyone in the world would have two houses, two cars, two cows, with ice cream on top and oil to last the planet.

    For overpopulation the problem is there’s no good way to go for those who want, 65 prevent of this planet has been waiting all their life to go, they’re forced to be here, and we overpopulate because it means you get 60 percent of someone else’s income in child $upport, kids mean money and multiple partners and children

    Don’t make available a fentanyl euthanasia drink by the 10,000 gallon vat and the 65 percent of the planet that world say thanks won’t get to go yet, but might even replicate after some bad one night stands, and you won’t more than double available resources, or you will keep 1M in insurance and state aid money never paid out, and social security they paid into, to the end you create some cool jobs for people and dispensaries and no more crime, and everyone in the world that remains will be people that actually want to be here without botch job suicide attempts for a worse existence, and everyone in the world would have two houses, two cars, an oil supplies to last the planet, and they could have a cow, with ice cream on top, unless they eat the cow, then they need another one

    Just saying..

    Or get an ass graft on your face when they keep trying and you get black fungus necrotizing your facial tissue, why get a facial? They keep trying

    Make euthanasia

    1/3 off the world population starving may reach 2/3. Dump ocean water into dry rivers with ocean fish, have an ocean river, desal at farms, steam distiller at the kitchen sink, disinfected and salt free

    Collect America’s lawn mower clippings for more cattle, new jobs. Instead we export corn and beef and have a storage and import meat from other countries

    They tried to make viruses to eliminate half the world, they are unsuccessful, wait till a mobster has to get an ass graft on his face from some black fungus sprayed, unreal. 65 percent of the world would say thanks for a synthetic opioid euthanasia drink by the 10,000 gallon vat, I could have done agenda 21 better 8 years ago

    If you won’t be compassionate to the majority, nor will the the ruling minority to all. To them it is a matter of choice: Theirs

    Soon your cities will be without water, unless you hire people for US currency which costs the same to print as unemployment without a future and pump desalinated water from the ocean into river systems

    we’re not being drawn to the sun,

    There’s two black holes on the surface, whatever was gravitationally drawn to the core went there, and the overall gravity of the sun increased but it got hotter but we’re moving away and angry solar flares and CMEs are coming after us for leavingg

    Heat pushes clouds causing flooding on other parts of this planet while coronal mass ejection and solar flares from magnetic connections from the sun to the earth are increasing. One day maybe it will arc weld this iron ball if we don’t cross elliptical orbit line with the moon. Tell NASA about the moon and a year and a half later they make Moonfall. They should make a euthanasia for everyone who wants to go, or be stuck to endure the future even if you don’t want to be here at all???

    With the moon it’d be a tsunami one way and a volcano the other, the future of our relationship with the sun is a different issue


    65 percent of the planet would take a synthetic opioid drink by the 10,000 gallon vat and say thanks,

    1/3 off the world is starving to death, 5 percent need bones they can’t or don’t want to get replaced, 5 percent need organs they can’t or don’t want to get replaced, 5 percent are terminally ill 5 percent chronic pain, 5-10 percent never wanted to be here anyway, and everyone else will have a peaceful way to go when they want. There’s no good way to go, some are 18 and 0 and going through death and not actually dying is not fun, some attempts are violent to go through. Instead of making a euthanasia available to everyone who wants to go they kill .08 percent of the world population in two years. Everyone was the target. I would have helped the 65 percent go 8 yrs ago.

    They’re getting a dime instead of a dollar in creating good

    There needs to be a peaceful easy way for everyone when they want to go. Guy saves 1M in state aid, paid 600k in social security, doesn’t have to die every day, just gets to leave before suffering. The guy with the kids gets 800 k from Uncle Sam in life insurance he never signed up for and Uncle Sam keeps the other 800k. Free euthanasia. Cut inflation by more than half, more than doubled available resources. Have a job by a company which pays all the taxes and picks up grass clippings M-S to take it to fields now with cows on it, 4x your US cattle with lawn mower clippings from every years, save 2500 on property taxes and make sure your clippings are out in your neighborhood on Tuesdays

    Pump desalinated water from ocean wave current into river systems ASAP. It costs the same to print unemployment and section 8 as it fits a job with a paycheck that won’t even take your house away

    Here’s your check if you love your neighbors and don’t want to leave your free housing, and here’s your bigger check if you want to rent on the private market

    More confusing paint corporations pay all the taxes making useful cool jobs like a mint company your paper actually goes somewhere and a quarter turns back into a dollar

    Dig out 10 ‘ of river bed and cast and set two 10′ pipelines to being Atlantic ocean water to every house, use steam distiller for salt free disinfected water at the kitchen sink, dump waste water into sealed pipelines. It took a turn 2 years to dig out 10’ of riverbed, everyone could be back to work working in every town and we’d be at with new infrastructure. Don’t put salt in your water, have more salt for more roads in the winter.

    Send salt water straight to homes, they’ll use a distiller for their few gallons of driving and cooking water and they’re off toilet to tap loop. Use electrolysis for energy from salt water. At the very least, feed rivers with desal water immediately to quickly overcome drought shortages, no problem

    Make a grass and corn crop that grows in ocean water hybrid with say, oceanic grass root structures, best genetic corn crop growing in salt water in Texas and Arizona while you solar desalinate more oxygen and hydrogen into the air in a 24/7/365 grow season with ocean water and no weeds growing in salt water crops or lawns, fill your swimming pool with ocean water and water your lawn with salt water, don’t put salt in your what salt water put it in the roads, use a small steam distiller made of glass and stainless to get disinfected and salt water free water for cooking and drinking, maybe an ocean let for your pool, were have to deal with ocean water rise, how about a Dolphin?

    Make more indoor fish farms, clean fish into a flash freezer, people eat fish, kid makes 90 k a year running fishing equipment not $9 an hour people eat well

    People could be cremated visible to the public and the smoke can be required in a gallon of water and the ashes and cement combined and people can be made into a concrete cast or flower pot. Otherwise, if they get cremated, without a filter, or dissolved in alkyld they go down a drain?

    And they had that place giving fake ashes and selling bodies

    Maybe you could make a wireless Tesla bridge (like when you touch a Tesla ball and the current comes towards you, though you are in the millivolts) to draw CMEs from the sun to say, Mars, maybe you’ll stop the earth from frying

    Only on this planet are you forced to exist by the people that want you gone and say they want to reduce world’s population by half, I’d say it’s irony but that’s why people want to leave earth and go to Mars, they secretly secretly want to steal the iron , shh don’t tell anyone

    You can kill your baby but no euthanasia if you want to die? Wtf

    And hey, maybe officers armed and hired to protect school children that won’t go in(but even said if their child was in there then they would have definitely gone in) should be here to military standards in an act of war for an Act of Cowardice. Are they just there for the donuts?

    How returning vets to defend your schools, it costs the same to print welfare, unemployment, etc as it does a good job with a paycheck

    Also, a school could have a drone with a 500 round capacity that works on geo-fi.

    It’s not accessable by the internet, the network doesn’t even exist. The drone knows it’s location to the layout of the school/campus. The power for the system is on a battery backup with generator locked in a rooftop cage.

    Two people have access to device, one is in locked office at all times. In event of shooting, drone goes live. Camera 1 at the door is fish rewound to last motion segments. One second later, camera 1 shows still frame of shooter enter. Military vet, Dean, clicks on shooter. Drone flies out of office at 60 mph, flies upstairs and takes out shooter, drone might land and grip at carpeting, or suction cup to glass or smooth flooring for accuracy and recoil control

    System costs 50k, a teacher makes 85k

  13. Just another dumb meatist hit piece.
    The future is vegan,get with the program. Your reality is manipulated by people who profit of you.They dont care about your health or happiness, only their profits.

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