Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

A good-quality breakfast is associated with better mental health in adolescence

Therese A O’Sullivana1, Monique Robinsona1a2, Garth E Kendalla3, Margaret Millera4, Peter Jacobya1, Sven R Silburna5 and Wendy H Oddya1 c1

a1 Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, Centre for Child Health Research, The University of Western Australia, PO Box 855 West Perth, Western Australia 6872, Australia

a2 School of Psychology, The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia

a3 School of Nursing & Midwifery, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia

a4 Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth, Australia

a5 Centre for Developmental Health, Curtin University of Technology, Perth, Australia


Objective Breakfast consumption has been associated with better mental health in adulthood, but the relationship between breakfast and mental health in adolescence is less well known. The aims of the present study were to evaluate breakfast quality in a cohort of adolescents and to investigate associations with mental health.

Design Cross-sectional population-based study. Breakfast quality was assessed by intake of core food groups at breakfast, as determined from 3 d food diaries. Mental health was assessed using the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL), with higher scores representing poorer behaviour.

Setting The Western Australian Pregnancy Cohort (Raine) Study, Perth, Western Australia.

Subjects Eight hundred and thirty-six males and females aged between 13 and 15 years.

Results Mean mental health score as assessed by the CBCL was 45·24 (sd 11·29). A high-quality breakfast consisting of at least three food groups was consumed by 11 % of adolescents, while 7 % of adolescents did not consume any items from core food groups on average over the 3 d period. The two most common core food groups consumed at breakfast in this population were dairy products followed by breads and cereals. For every additional food group eaten at breakfast, the associated total mental health score decreased by 1·66 (95 % CI −2·74, −0·59) after adjustment for potential confounding factors, representing an improvement in mental health score.

Conclusion These findings support the concept that breakfast quality is an important component in the complex interaction between lifestyle factors and mental health in early adolescence.

(Received July 01 2008)

(Accepted September 06 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email