Vitamin D Deficiency May Increase Risk of Schizophrenia

A blue umbrella covers a person with a red jacket in the cityIt’s impossible to neatly separate mental health from physical wellness. Previous research has uncovered myriad connections between health choices and psychological states, and clinicians are increasingly aware of the ways lifestyle choices and physical health can affect mental health. People who exercise regularly, for example, are less likely to be depressed. According to a new study, vitamin D deficiency plays a role in schizophrenia.

Schizophrenia and Vitamin D Deficiency

Schizophrenia may be more common among people living in colder climates where sunlight and vitamin D are in short supply. Researchers, who published their findings in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, examined the connection between vitamin D and schizophrenia by evaluating 19 previous studies of the connection between vitamin D and various health problems. The studies provided vitamin D levels for a total of 2,804 adults.

People with schizophrenia had vitamin D levels that were, on average, 5.91 ng/ml lower than those without schizophrenia. Overall, people with low levels of vitamin D were 2.16 times more likely to have schizophrenia.

The study strengthens the findings of previous research, which suggests that children who don’t get enough vitamin D early in life are at an increased risk of schizophrenia. While the connection between vitamin D and schizophrenia is fertile ground for future research, the latest study does not necessarily mean that vitamin D can either treat or prevent schizophrenia. Ahmad Esmaillzadeh, PhD, one of the study’s authors, points out that schizophrenia may actually cause vitamin D deficiency.

About 2.4 million Americans have schizophrenia, which causes hallucinations, delusions, and unusual thoughts. While schizophrenia is treatable, commonly used medications can have unpleasant side effects, making it difficult for some people to continue treatment. Research into the role of vitamin D in schizophrenia may offer a glimmer of hope. The study’s authors indicate that future research should evaluate whether there is a causal relationship between vitamin D and schizophrenia. 


  1. Benefits of exercise – reduces stress, anxiety, and helps fight depression, from Harvard Men’s Health Watch. (2011, February). Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from
  2. Whiteman, Honor. (2014, July 23). Could vitamin D deficiency increase the risk of schizophrenia? Medical News Today. Retrieved from

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  • Jim

    August 4th, 2014 at 4:00 PM

    I know that there are many people with schizophrenia and their families who can really benefit from information such as this.
    Keeping oneself and our families nutritionally sound has so many more values than we can even begin to know.

  • Gabby

    August 5th, 2014 at 10:39 AM

    THere are still a lot of questions here that have to be raised and answered before we should start looking to this as something that could actually help. I think that once there are some studies on whether the disease causes the vitamin deficiency and whether doses being increased could actually ward off the onset of schizophrenia then I think that we will be going in the right direction in terms of prevention and cures.

  • steven d.

    August 6th, 2014 at 3:22 PM

    I would love to know whether this is something that advocates will now be pushing for more milk, more sunlight for these patients or whether you think that there will be a rallying cry for this to be introduced in more of a supplemental form.

    I have always heard that the more you can get your vitamins from more natural sources the better the impact you will receive from them. I tend to agree with that, over having to rely on a pill for something. I am curious to know if the same would then hold true in this case too.

  • Victor

    August 8th, 2014 at 11:47 AM

    So maybe the next step would be to amp up vitamin d research in kids since early intervention is often the key to treating so many diseases and illnesses.

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