Low Vitamin D Levels Linked with Non-Violent Psychiatric Distress in Adolescents

A recent study conducted by the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders found that suboptimal vitamin D status may be related to psychiatric distress, but not violence in adolescents.  Psychiatric distress is characterized by a wide range of unpleasant feelings or emotions that impact an individual’s quality of life.

Symptoms may include anger, anxiety, insomnia, confusion, depression and worry. In some cases, violent behaviors may accompany psychiatric distress.  Research has found that vitamin D status is associated with mental disorders, cognitive impairment and depressive symptoms in adults. However, these findings have been inconsistent. In addition, few studies have evaluated the relationship between vitamin D status and mental health of adolescents in Iran. 

The current study investigated the relationship between vitamin D status and psychiatric distress and violent behaviors in Iranian children and adolescents.  The researchers conducted a nationwide study using data from the Childhood and Adolescence Surveillance and Prevention of Adult Non-communicable Disease (CASPIAN) study conducted in Iran. The CASPIAN study is a nationwide survey used to determine at risk behaviors in Iranian school students.  A total of 1095 Iranian school students between 10 to 18 years of age were included in the study. Psychiatric distress and violent behaviors were determined using the Global School-based Student Health Survey (GSHS) questionnaire. 

The researchers found that 40% of individuals in the study were vitamin D deficient (less than 10 ng/ml) and 39% were vitamin D insufficient (10-30 ng/ml). The odds of reported feelings of anger, anxiety, poor sleep quality, sadness, depression and worry was 1.5 to 1.8 times greater for vitamin D insufficient children and adolescents compared with those with normal vitamin D levels (p < 0.05). Vitamin D status did not have an association with violence behaviors (p > 0.05). 

The authors concluded: “The study found significant associations between vitamin D deficiency and self-reported psychiatric distress as angriness, anxiety, poor quality sleep, sadness/depression, and worry. However, no significant association existed between vitamin D status and violence behaviors.”