Patterns of dietary intake and psychological distress in older Australians: Benefits not just from a Mediterranean diet

A.M. Hodge, Osvaldo Almeida, D.R. English, G.G. Giles, Leon Flicker

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    85 Citations (Scopus)


    Background: Anxiety and depression contribute to morbidity in elderly adults and may be associated with diet. We investigated the association between diet and psychological distress as a marker for depression.

    Methods: Dietary patterns were defined by factor analysis or the Mediterranean Diet Score (MDS); depression and anxiety were assessed 12 years later. A total of 8,660 generally healthy men and women born in Australia and aged 50-69 years from the Melbourne Collaborative Cohort Study were included. At baseline (1990-1994), diet (food frequency questionnaire), education, Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) - Index of Relative Socio-economic Disadvantage, medication use, social engagement, physical activity, smoking status, alcohol use, and health conditions were assessed; at follow-up (2003-2007), psychological distress was assessed using the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Logistic regression was used to identify associations between diet and a K10 score ≥20, indicative of psychological distress.

    Results: The MDS was inversely associated with psychological distress, with the odds ratio in the top-scoring group relative to the lowest scoring group being 0.72 (95% confidence interval = 0.54-0.95). Stronger adherence to a traditional Australian-style eating pattern was also associated with a lower K10 score at follow-up, with the odds ratio for having a K10 score indicative of psychological distress for the top 20% of adherence to this pattern relative to the lowest being 0.61 (95% confidence interval = 0.40-0.91).

    Conclusions: A Mediterranean-style diet was associated with less psychological distress, possibly through provision of a healthy nutrient profile. The Australian dietary pattern, which included some foods high in fat and sugar content along with whole foods, also showed a weak inverse association. Adherence to this pattern may reflect a feeling of belonging to the community associated with less psychological distress. © International Psychogeriatric Association 2012.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)456-466
    JournalInternational Psychogeriatrics
    Issue number3
    Early online date3 Dec 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


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