Vegetarianism is becoming increasingly prevalent in the UK.
Back in 1989, around 3% of the population were categorised as being vegetarian but this statistic has now jumped significantly to 5.7% - equating to just over 3.5 million people at the time of writing.
In addition to ethical motivations, many people are choosing to adopt the lifestyle in an effort to lose weight and reduce their likelihood of developing health conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
However, new research has suggested this meat-free culture may entail a number of harmful mental health issues including OCD, panic attacks and depression.
A German study has shown how people who are vegetarian (or predominantly vegetarian) are 15% more likely to show signs of depressive disorders than their carnivorous counterparts.
In the same group of 4,200 people, twice as many vegetarians were found to suffer from some form of anxiety disorder than those who regularly ate meat.
However, this does not necessarily mean the diet itself is the cause for concern, as many people who have a previous history of poor mental health are known to have converted to vegetarianism for one reason or another.
Whilst there are a number of findings which suggest meatless diets could provide health benefits to those who adopt them, the research does point towards a negative mental health culture surrounding vegetarianism.
Boston Psychiatrist Emily Deans, M.D has stated: “We don’t know if a vegetarian diet causes depression and anxiety, or if people who are predisposed to those mental conditions gravitate toward vegetarianism.”
The question to be asked here is: why are people with mental health illnesses more drawn towards choosing a diet which is strictly free of meat.
One speculatory reason may be the idea that vegetarian eating has a prestige over conventional diets for people attempting to lose weight and become healthier.
People suffering from depression and anxiety may be more inclined to ‘better’ themselves due to poor mental health by getting in shape, losing weight and exercising more regularly and the cited health benefits of vegetarianism may be one alluring reason to start.
Whatever for the reason for the considerable correlation conveyed in the study’s data, it is important for everyone to not neglect their diet, especially those with severe mental and physical health conditions.
Staying hydrated, energised and consuming a balanced diet may seem like old news but is something which is extremely important and will help in maintaining mood, energy levels and motivation in other areas of life.
Encompass is a registered charity which provides professional care services such as respite care and supported living to help improve the lives of people living with mental health illnesses and learning disabilities.
Find out how the Encompass team can help your or a loved one by clicking here.