People who include a lot of fish in their diet are less likely to be depressed, says a new study.
The study analyzed more than 1,50,000 people and found that a diet high in fish lowers the risk of becoming depressed by 17 percent. It is higher for men, cutting the likelihood by 20 percent.
The high-quality protein, vitamins and minerals found in fish helps ward off depression. Eating a lot of fish may also be an indicator of a healthy and more nutritious diet.
Professor Dongfeng Zhang at the Medical College of Qingdao University, Shandong, China, said, "The association between fish consumption and risk of depression is controversial. Many studies have investigated the associations between food consumption and depression risk."
"A meta-analysis published recently indicated that a healthy dietary pattern, characterized by a high intake of fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains, was significantly associated with a reduced risk of depression. However, it is not yet clear which component of the dietary pattern would be responsible for the protective effect," said Zhang.
"Fish, as an important source of 'n-3' polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs), which may play important roles in neural structure and function, has been reported to be associated with depression in several studies," Zhang added.
People who were divorced or separated are more likely to have symptoms of mild to moderate mental ill health, with 27 percent showing signs of the conditions, compared with 20 percent of those who were single, cohabiting or widowed.
Eating a diet that is high in fish could be an easy way of preventing symptoms. Studies have suggested that omega 3 fatty acids in fish may alter the production of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin, which are thought to be involved in depression.
"Higher fish consumption may be beneficial in the primary prevention of depression. Future studies are needed to further investigate whether this association varies according to the type of fish," said Zhang.
To assess the strength of the evidence on the link between fish consumption and depression risk, researchers collected data from studies published between 2001 and 2014.
A significant association was found between those who included more fish in their diet and a 17 percent reduction in depression risk compared with those eating the least.
The association was found both in cohort and cross-sectional studies, but only for European studies.
The researchers specifically looked at the gender and found a slightly stronger association between high fish consumption and lowered depression risk in men. The association reduction in depression risk was 16 percent among women.
The research was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.