Vegetarians Suffer More Depression Than Meat Eaters

People who follow a vegetarian lifestyle have around twice as many depressive episodes as those who eat meat, according to the Brazilian Longitudinal Study of Adult Health.

What to Know

  • The high incidence of depression among vegetarians is not caused by nutrition but possibly by several factors, including the vegetarian social experience; depression itself may increase the likelihood of becoming vegetarian, or both vegetarianism and depression may be associated with guilt through factors involving the meat industry.
  • Adopting a vegetarian diet might affect one’s relationship with others and involvement in social activities and may sometimes be associated with teasing or other forms of social ostracism.
  • It is possible that being depressed and dwelling on negative thoughts cause people to be more likely to become vegetarian rather than the other way around.
  • Videos depicting violence and cruelty in the meat industry may affect depressed people, causing them to dwell on the images, feel guilty for their part in creating the demand for meat, and become vegetarian.
  • Survey data were collected in Brazil, a country famous for its meat-heavy diet, and while there has been a sharp increase in vegetarianism, vegetarians still account for less than 0.5%.

This is a summary of the article, “Association Between Meatless Diet and Depressive Episodes: A Cross-sectional Analysis of Baseline Data From the Longitudinal Study of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil),” published in the Journal of Affective Disorders. The full article can be found on .

The Journal of Affective Disorders publishes papers concerned with affective disorders in the widest sense: depression, mania, mood spectrum, emotions and personality, anxiety and stress. It is interdisciplinary and aims to bring together different approaches for a diverse readership. Top quality papers will be accepted dealing with any aspect of affective disorders, including neuroimaging, cognitive neurosciences, genetics, molecular biology, experimental and clinical neurosciences, pharmacology, neuroimmunoendocrinology, intervention and treatment trials.


Ingrid S. Kohl, Vivian C. Luft, Ana Luísa Patrão, Maria del Carmen B. Molina, Maria Angélica A. Nunes, Maria I. Schmidt, Association between meatless diet and depressive episodes: A cross-sectional analysis of baseline data from the longitudinal study of adult health (ELSA Brasil), Journal of Affective Disorders, Volume 320, 2023, Pages 48-56, ISSN 0165-0327,

Published in GI-Mail 01/2023 (English edition).

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