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Higher vitamin D levels correlated with less depression

Higher vitamin D levels correlated with less depression

Tuesday, January 10, 2012. The November, 2011 edition of Mayo Clinic Proceedings published the results of a cross-sectional study conducted by the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Institute which uncovered a protective effect for high serum vitamin D levels against depression. The study, which included 12,594 men and women, is the largest of its kind to date.

University of Texas professor of psychiatry E. Sherwood Brown and his associates analyzed data from participants in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study, which enrolled patients from the Cooper Clinic from November, 2006, to October, 2010. Subjects were categorized as depressed in accordance with Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale scores, and serum samples were analyzed for 25-hydroxyvitamin D levels.

Dr Brown's team found a significant association between higher vitamin D levels and a decreased risk of depressive symptoms, especially among those with a history of the condition. For those without a history of depression, having a higher serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level was associated with a 5 percent lower risk of the condition compared to having a low level, while among those with a history of depression, the risk for those with a high level was 10 percent lower.

Vitamin D's impact on neurotransmitters, markers of inflammation and other factors could be behind its ability to reduce depression according to Dr Brown, who is the head of UT Southwestern's psychoneuroendocrine research program. "Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients – and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels – might be useful," he concluded.

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Want to live longer? Try being happy

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While enduring hunger pangs and engaging in grueling exercise regimens have their adherents among those seeking a longer life span, a study described in an article published online this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reveals a possible survival benefit for simply being happy.

For their research, Andrew Steptoe and Jane Wardle of University College London analyzed data from 3,853 participants aged 52 to 79 years in the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, a cohort of older men and women living in England. Positive affect was assessed by having the subjects rate their feelings of happiness or anxiety four times during the course of a day, a method that avoids reliance on the ability to recall past emotions. The participants were followed for five years, during which any deaths were ascertained.

Positive affect among the participants was categorized as high, medium or low. Among those who rated themselves happiest, 3.6 died over follow-up, compared with 4.6 percent of the medium-rated group and 7.3 percent of those who rated themselves least happy. Those in the highest group had a 35 percent adjusted lower risk of dying compared with those who reported feeling least happy. Anxiety appeared to have little impact on survival. Although those with a higher positive affect reported better self-rated health and less depression, there were no significant differences in the incidence of serious diseases, alcohol intake, ethnicity, employment or education compared with those in the other groups.

"Momentary positive affect may be causally related to survival, or may be a marker of underlying biological, behavioral, or temperamental factors, although reverse causality cannot be conclusively ruled out," the authors write. "The results endorse the value of assessing experienced affect, and the importance of evaluating interventions that promote happiness in older populations."

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