January 21, 2023

Can You Get Depression Due To Vitamin D Deficiency?

Written by our expert


Avanthika Nityanand

M.Sc Human Genetics, B.Sc Plant Biology & Plant Biotechnology

Can You Get Depression Due To Vitamin D Deficiency?
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Vitamin D gets the name Sunshine Vitamin due to its ability to get synthesized in the body upon exposure to sunlight.

One of the fat-soluble vitamins, vitamin D, holds multiple positions regarding bone health, immunity, and cell growth. It may even play a part in depression. A pattern of low levels of vitamin D in depressed individuals has been detected by scientists, bringing up a possible link between vitamin D and depression.

This article will address the connection between vitamin D and depression.

Depression And Vitamin D Deficiency

Evidence shows low serum levels of vitamin D amongst depressed people, suggesting a possible connection.

Studies show that postpartum depression, a particular type of depression that exclusively occurs post-conceiving a baby, may be linked with vitamin D deficiency.

Similarly, research has noticed a possible connection between depression and low vitamin D levels in people suffering from gout, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and chronic spinal cord injuries.

A few investigations have shown an improvement in depression after supplementing with vitamin D. This observation is still under study and unclear.

A much larger study involving 18,000 depressed patients resulted in no significant difference in the depression scores from taking 2,000 IU/day of vitamin D over five years compared to the placebo group.

Other studies also showed insignificant alterations in depression, even after supplementation.

Since there are multiple contradicting results from different studies, more research is required to conclude whether supplementing with vitamin D can help fight depression.

Causes Of Vitamin D Deficiency

A variety of factors may contribute to developing a deficiency in vitamin D.

1. Sunlight: Spending less time outdoors can result in low levels of vitamin D as sunlight is the primary source for synthesizing vitamin D. Depending upon the place you reside, climatic changes, and your complexion, the amount of sunshine you require will differ. 

2. Diet: Natural sources of vitamin D are few and are mostly animal-based. They include:

  • Salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish
  • Fish liver oils
  • Fat from animals
  • Food products commonly fortified with vitamin D, like orange juice, breakfast cereal, etc.

Vegetarians and vegans may find themselves deficient in natural sources of Vitamin D. Some plant-based food sources include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified plant-based milk, cereals, grains, and juices 

3. Skin Tone: The ability to synthesize vitamin D alters according to your skin complexion or the amount of melanin you contain. The darker you are, the more melanin you have. It inhibits the production of vitamin D.

4. Distance from the equator: Evidence reveals a higher rate of vitamin D deficiency in people residing in the northern latitudes. Individuals living in areas with less sunlight may have to spend more time outdoors.

5. Obesity: A directly proportional link has been investigated between a higher BMI and a requirement of increased doses of vitamin D when compared to people with a normal BMI.

6. Age: As age progresses, the ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases. Senior citizens may also consume a poor diet deficient in vitamin D and spend less time outside.

Symptoms For Depression And Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency and depression are distinct conditions with symptoms of their own. But it is possible to experience both conditions at the same time.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include: 

  • Fatigue
  • Drowsiness
  • Weakness or pain in muscles and joints
  • Aching bones

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Anxiety
  • Lethargy
  • Overwhelmingly feeling sad, hopeless, and helpless
  • Forgetfulness 
  • Excessive weight gain or weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Finding it difficult to concentrate
  • Insomnia (difficulty sleeping) or Hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
  • Headaches
  • Back pains
  • Loss of interest
  • Suicidal thoughts

If you experience any of the above symptoms for both or one condition, speak to a doctor or healthcare professional to help you feel better.

Treatment For Depression And Low Vitamin D

Depression and low vitamin D are distinct and have different treatment protocols. Supplementing with vitamin D may be beneficial for depressed people.

  1. Vitamin D deficiency: For treating vitamin D deficiency, supplementation, either naturally or through supplements, getting more sunlight, and adding rich sources of vitamin D to your diet is advised.
  2. Depression: Medical professionals use antidepressants and psychotherapy to treat depression. They are applied together or as separate treatments, depending on the symptoms. If depression is related to a vitamin D deficiency, supplementation would be beneficial. Getting a physician’s advice is of utmost importance to follow an appropriate treatment protocol.

A few steps to combat depression and reduce symptoms are:

  1. Support Groups: Conversing with people with a mutual problem can help as a source of motivation and encouragement.
  2. Exercise: Physical activity can trigger an endorphin release, a happy hormone that can help alleviate symptoms. Starting small and progressing on to longer durations would be ideal.
  3. Quality sleep: Sound sleep can decrease symptoms of depression.
  4. Communicate: Talking to your close circle of well-wishers can do you good, especially when you’re mentally struggling.

A potential complementary treatment option could be vitamin D. A qualified physician can assist you with finding the diagnosis and treatment protocol.

FAQs Regarding Vitamin D And Depression

1. Can vitamin D have any effect on mood?

Some studies show vitamin D plays a role in regulating mood, but further research is required to conclude the same.

2. How much vitamin D should you take for depression?

According to the National Institute of Health, we can safely take 4,000 IU of vitamin D without a doctor’s advice. The global recommendation for people is 600 IU.

Studies regarding vitamin D and depression show differing amounts of dosages. From 4,000 IU/day for 12 consecutive weeks to one single dosage of 300,000.

Assessing your vitamin D levels with a physician helps avoid over-supplementing, which can lead to adverse effects.

3. Should we take extra care about vitamin D in winter?

Winter comes with shorter daylight time, less sunshine, and people spending more time indoors.

Even when people step outdoors, they are often covered with multiple pieces of clothing, deflecting any ounce of sun exposure to the skin.

These factors could very well lead to the development of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a particular type of depression that occurs only during winter.

To combat SAD, consuming vitamin D-rich dietary sources and supplements and getting more sun exposure can help.


A vital ingredient for your mental and physical health, vitamin D may have a role in depression. A few studies have revealed that low levels may have a link to depression, and supplementation may have a benefit.

Symptoms of depression, if detected once, must be assessed by a professional to establish the appropriate intervention.

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