Summary: Poor nutrition was linked to an increased risk of depression in middle-aged and older adults. Men who consume higher levels of fat and lower levels of omega-3 were more prone to depression. A diet low in fruits and vegetables was also associated with increased depression risks.
Source: University of Toronto
Your diet can put you at risk of depression, according to a new study. The study also found that the likelihood of depression is higher among middle-aged and older women who were immigrants to Canada when compared to Canadian-born women.
“Lower intakes of fruits and vegetables were found to be linked to depression for both men and women, immigrants and those born in Canada,” said Dr. Karen Davison, Health Science Program Chair at Kwantlen Polytechnic University in Surrey, B.C., who led the study. “Men were more likely to experience depression if they consumed higher levels of fat, or lower levels of omega-3 eggs. For all participants, lower grip strength and high nutritional risk were associated with depression.”
“The consumption of fruits and vegetables was protective against depression in our study, which has also been found in previous research. Anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant components in fruits and vegetables may account for this relationship.”
Various minerals and vitamins (e.g., magnesium, zinc, selenium) present in fruits and vegetables may reduce plasma concentrations of C-reactive protein, a marker of low-grade inflammation associated with depression.
“We were interested to learn that omega-3 polyunsaturated fats were inversely associated with depression among men.” said co-author Yu Lung, a doctoral student at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work (FIFSW). “Future research is needed to explore the pathways but it is plausible that increased omega-3 fatty acid concentration in the diet may influence central nervous system cell-membrane fluidity, and phospholipid composition, which may alter the structure and function of the embedded proteins and affect serotonin and dopamine neurotransmission.”
Depression was associated with having chronic pain and at least one chronic health condition for both men and women, this study found. “This finding underlines the importance of health professionals being aware of the mind-body connection, with the hope that the alleviation of chronic pain may facilitate better mental health” says co-author Dr. Hongmei Tong, Assistant Professor of Social Work at MacEwan University in Edmonton.
“In addition to nutritional intake, it is important to consider influences earlier in life including immigration status, education and income as these are also crucial to the mental health of older Canadians,” says co-author Shen (Lamson) Lin, doctoral candidate at FIFSW.
For immigrant women, the study also found that the likelihood of depression is higher among those middle-aged and older when compared to Canadian-born women.
The links between immigrant status and depression may be attributed to many factors. “Among women, but not men, immigrant status was associated with depression,” says senior author, Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson at FIFSW and director of the Institute for Life Course & Aging. “The older immigrant women in this study may have reported depression as a result of the substantial stress associated with settling in a new country such as having insufficient income, overcoming language barriers, facing discrimination, adapting to a different culture, reduced social support networks, and having their education and work experiences unrecognized.”
“It was surprising that immigrant men, who face many of these same settlement problems, did not have higher levels of depression than their Canadian-born peers,” says co-author Dr. Karen Kobayashi, Associate Dean Research and Graduate Studies in the Faculty of Social Sciences, professor in the Department of Sociology and a research affiliate at the Institute on Aging & Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria. “Although we did not have the data to explore why there was a gender difference, it may be that in these older married couples it was the husband who initiated the immigration process and the wives may not have as much choice about whether or not they wanted to leave their homeland.”
The study was based on analysis of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging data and included a sample of 27,162 men and women aged 45-85 years, of whom 4,739 are immigrants. The article was published this month in BMC Psychiatry.
“The study findings may help to define programs and policies that could help immigrants transition positively to Canadian culture,” adds Dr. Davison. “In addition, this investigation helps to highlight the need to consider nutrition-related programming and policies relevant for all Canadians.”
Dr. Karen Davison, the lead author on this study, is the Health Science Program Chair at KPU. She is an elected member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists and Fellow of the North American Primary Care Research Group.
Professor Esme Fuller-Thomson, the senior author on this study, is the Director of the Institute of Life Course & Aging at the University of Toronto. She is cross-appointed to the faculties of Social Work, Medicine and Nursing. She is a fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.
University of Toronto
Karen Davison – University of Toronto
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Original Research: Open access
“Depression in middle and older adulthood: the role of immigration, nutrition, and other determinants of health in the Canadian longitudinal study on aging”. Karen Davidson, Yu Lung, Shen (Lamson) Lin, Hongmei Tong, Karen Kobayashi, Esme Fuller-Thomson.
BMC Psychiatry doi:10.1186/s12888-019-2309-y.
Depression in middle and older adulthood: the role of immigration, nutrition, and other determinants of health in the Canadian longitudinal study on aging
Little is known about depression in middle-aged and older Canadians and how it is affected by health determinants, particularly immigrant status. This study examined depression and socio-economic, health, immigration and nutrition-related factors in older adults.
Using weighted comprehensive cohort data from the baseline Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (n = 27,162) of adults aged 45–85, gender-specific binary logistic regression was conducted with the cross-sectional data using the following variables: 1) Depression (outcome) measured using the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Short Depression (CESD-10) rating scale; 2) Immigration status: native-born, recent and mid-term (< 20 years), and long-term immigrants (≥20 years); and 3) covariates: socioeconomic status, physical health (e.g., multi-morbidity), health behavior (e.g., substance use), over-nutrition (e.g., anthropometrics), under-nutrition (e.g., nutrition risk), and dietary intake.Results
The sample respondents were mainly Canadian-born (82.6%), women (50.6%), 56–65 years (58.9%), earning between C$50,000–99,999 (33.2%), and in a relationship (69.4%). When compared to Canadian-born residents, recent, mid-term (< 20 years), and longer-term (≥ 20 years) immigrant women were more likely to report depression and this relationship was robust to adjustments for 32 covariates (adjusted ORs = 1.19, 2.54, respectively, p < 0.001). For women, not completing secondary school (OR = 1.23, p < 0.05), stage 1 hypertension (OR = 1.31, p < 0.001), chronic pain (OR = 1.79, p < 0.001), low fruit/vegetable intakes (OR = 1.33, p < 0.05), and fruit juice (OR = 1.80, p < 0.001), chocolate (ORs = 1.15–1.66, p’s < 0.05), or salty snack (OR = 1.19, p < 0.05) consumption were associated with depression. For all participants, lower grip strength (OR = 1.25, p < 0.001) and high nutritional risk (OR = 2.24, p < 0.001) were associated with depression. For men, being in a relationship (OR = 0.62, p < 0.001), completing post-secondary education (OR = 0.82, p < 0.05), higher fat (ORs = 0.67–83, p’s < 0.05) and omega-3 egg intake (OR = 0.86, p < 0.05) as well as moderate intakes of fruits/vegetables and calcium/high vitamin D sources (ORs = 0.71–0.743, p’s < 0.05) predicted a lower likelihood of depression. For men, chronic conditions (ORs = 1.36–3.65, p’s < 0.001), chronic pain (OR = 1.86, p < 0.001), smoking (OR = 1.17, p < 0.001), or chocolate consumption (ORs = 1.14–1.72, p’s < 0.05) predicted a higher likelihood of depression.
The odds of developing depression were highest among immigrant women. Depression in middle-aged and older adults is also associated with socioeconomic, physical, and nutritional factors and the relationships differ by sex. These results provide insights for mental health interventions specific to adults aged 45–85.