Iron Deficiency is Related to Depressive Symptoms in United States Nonpregnant Women of Reproductive Age: A Cross-Sectional Analysis of NHANES 2005-2010

Mihaela A. Ciulei, Namanjeet Ahluwalia, Benjamin J.J. McCormick, Douglas M. Teti, Laura E. Murray-Kolb

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Background: Findings of the association between iron status and depressive symptoms in nonpregnant women of reproductive age (WRA) are equivocal, limited by a small sample size, or did not consistently control for confounders. Objective: We tested the association between iron status and depressive symptoms in WRA with the NHANES data (2005-2010). Methods: Nonpregnant WRA (20-44 y) with complete data on iron (ferritin and transferrin receptor (TfR)) and anemia (hemoglobin) biomarkers, depressive symptoms (Patient Health Questionnaire-9), and sociodemographic variables were included. Logistic and negative binomial regressions were used to estimate presence (odds ratios) and magnitude (prevalence ratios), respectively, for depressive symptoms by iron deficiency (ID)/anemia/ID anemia in the total sample and stratified by poverty:income ratio (≤ 1.85 or >1.85). Results: Among 2516 females, the prevalence of ID was 8 to 16% (depending on the iron biomarker used), of anemia 8%, of which 52 to 65% were also ID. The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 10%. Crude logistic models showed that females with ID (TfR ≥ 8.3 mg/L or body iron <0 mg/kg) from the total sample had 1.82 (95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.24, 2.68) and 1.62 (95% CI: 1.05, 2.48), respectively, higher odds of depressive symptoms than females with iron sufficiency; these associations were attenuated after adjustments for confounders. Adjusted negative binomial models showed that females with ID (TfR ≥ 8.3 mg/L) from the total and low-income samples showed 1.19 (95% CI: 1:00, 1.40) and 1.27 (95% CI: 1.03, 1.58), respectively, higher prevalence ratios of depressive symptoms scores than females with iron sufficiency. Conclusions: These nationally representative data indicate that nonpregnant WRA with ID (based on high TfR) in the United States have higher prevalence of somatic depressive symptoms scores than those with iron sufficiency, especially if they are of low income.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3521-3528
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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