According to the findings of a recent study, using vitamin D supplements was associated with decreased rates of attempted suicide and purposeful self-harm among former members of the armed forces. In the study, the researchers looked at data pertaining to a large population of American veterans and came to the conclusion that those who were given vitamin D supplements had a reduced probability of attempting suicide or inflicting self-harm than those who were not given the supplement. Nevertheless, the research can only demonstrate a correlation; it cannot demonstrate a cause-and-effect link, and the study has limitations.
This research, which was just published in the peer-reviewed journal PLoS ONE, adds to the increasing body of scientific evidence that suggests there may be a connection between a lack of vitamin D and depression or other types of mental illness. According to the American Psychological Association, veterans have about a 1.5-fold increased risk of dying by suicide compared to other people. This finding provides a possible new avenue for the prevention of self-harm and suicide among veterans.
If shown to be effective in clinical studies, vitamin D supplementation in the Veterans Health Administration (VA) may hold promise as a relatively safe, conveniently available, and reasonably priced medicine for the prevention of suicide attempts and suicide itself.
In order to arrive at this verdict, the team conducted an investigation into the records of hundreds of thousands of individuals housed inside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). They sought participants who had at least one medical or pharmaceutical encounter that was documented during the years of 2010 and 2018. After that, they compared the frequency of suicide attempts and reports of self-harm behavior between the veterans who were given vitamin D by the VA and comparable control individuals who hadn’t been administered supplements. They did this to determine whether there was any significant difference between the two groups.
They discovered that the unadjusted rate of attempted suicides as well as self-harm was around 0.36% in the control group, but it was only 0.2% among the treated groups, which represents a difference of roughly 44%. Taking vitamin D2 supplements was connected with a 48.8% lower risk of attempted suicide, while taking vitamin D3 supplements was linked with a 44.8% lower risk of attempted suicide.
In addition, the researchers discovered that the connection between vitamin D supplementation and a decreased risk of suicide was much more strong among Black veterans. Within this subgroup, supplementation was associated with an almost 60% reduction in the probability of attempting suicide or harming oneself.
Last but not least, among veterans who were reported to have vitamin D deficiencie, supplementation was associated with the largest decrease in the risk of suicide of any cohort. When compared to those who weren’t given supplements, those who had low vitamin D levels in their medical records and were given them were almost 64% less likely to attempt suicide or self-harm versus those who weren’t given supplements.
According to the findings of a review study conducted in 2018, somewhere between 42 and 50 percent of the population of the United States may not get enough vitamin D, with the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency being significantly higher among adults of Hispanic and Black descent than among their white counterparts. Vitamin D is produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight throughout the middle of the day; however, those with darker pigmentation likely need more strong UV radiation exposure in order for their bodies to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D. There is a cost associated with the protection that melanin provides against the adverse effects of UV radiation, but there is also a need for some level of UV exposure.
A lack of vitamin D has been related to a wide variety of health issues, such as aches and pains, weakening in the bones and muscles, an increased chance of dying from heart disease, cognitive impairments, pediatric asthma, and some malignancies. Previous study has also pointed to a possible connection between levels of vitamin D and depression as well as other mental health problems. However, the findings of previous investigations on the probable links have been inconclusive.
Specifically for members of the armed forces, research conducted in 2013 on over one thousand former service members indicated that those with the lowest vitamin D levels had the greatest chance of attempting suicide, while those with the highest vitamin D levels had the lowest risk. Further research conducted in 2020 with more than 150,000 Korean veterans indicated that individuals with very low levels of D were much more likely to have considered or attempted suicide. On the other hand, some other study has shown that supplementation with vitamin D has either no benefit or a harmful effect on psychiatric health.
However, the current research lends credence to the theory that vitamin D may have some bearing on depressive symptoms and suicidal tendencies in individuals. However, there are exceptions to consider with any kind of study.
Due to the fact that the research was conducted by reviewing data that had been gathered in the past, it has a number of significant flaws. To begin, the authors of the research had no method of determining whether or not the patients who were assigned to the control group had access to vitamin D pills on their own, outside of the context of the VA. Numerous retail establishments provide vitamin D supplements at reasonable prices and do not need a doctor’s prescription to obtain them.
It is also conceivable that the group of persons who picked up their vitamin D prescriptions had other co-factors that rendered them less prone to consider suicide, such as a stronger social support system. This is something that needs to be investigated further. In addition, the research did not take into account all of the factors that may have a role in suicidal behavior, such as traumatic brain injuries, which are rather frequent among military service members.
If more research were conducted, it would be possible to determine whether or not the association observed in this study is a true one. However, individuals should exercise care when it comes to consuming large quantities of vitamin D. In excessive dosages, vitamin D pills may make you sick and cause kidney damage. The human body is only capable of absorbing a limited quantity of vitamin D before the remainder is stored in our internal organs. The influence that vitamin D could have on the severity of covid-19 has also been investigated, however, the findings have been unsatisfactory.