Public Health Nutrition

Research Papers

Unsaturated fat intakes and mental health outcomes in young women from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Heath

Clare Daleya1, Amanda Pattersona1, David Sibbritta2 and Lesley MacDonald-Wicksa1 c1

a1 Nutrition and Dietetics, School of Health Sciences, University of Newcastle, Hunter Building, University Drive, Callaghan, NSW 2308, Australia

a2 Faculty of Health, University of Technology, Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Objective To determine if associations exist between a range of unsaturated fatty acid intakes and mental health outcomes.

Design Cross-sectional data analysis of the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) Young Cohort Survey 3 that included the validated seventy-four-item Dietary Questionnaire for Epidemiological Studies FFQ, validated mental health scales and self-report questions on depression and anxiety.

Setting Australia, 2003.

Subjects A nationally representative sample of young Australian women (25–30 years) from ALSWH. The 7635 women with plausible energy intakes (>4·5 but <20·0 MJ/d) were included in the analyses.

Results Adjusted logistic regression analyses found statistically significant associations between higher intakes of α-linolenic acid and decreased likelihood of depressive symptoms indicated by the ten-item Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale (CESD-10; OR=0·77; 95 % CI 0·60, 0·99; P=0·040) and the Short Form Health Survey (SF-36) mental health subscale (OR=0·73 95 % CI 0·56, 0·96; P=0·024). Furthermore, higher intakes of n-6 fatty acids (OR=0·96, 95 % CI 0·93, 0·99; P=0·019) and linoleic acid (OR=0·96, 95 % CI 0·93, 0·99; P=0·020) were associated with decreased likelihood of self-reported diagnosed anxiety and higher intakes of n-9 fatty acids (OR=1·02, 95 % CI 1·00, 1·04; P=0·041) and oleic acid (OR=1·02, 95 % CI 1·00, 1·05; P=0·046) were associated with increased likelihood of self-reported diagnosed anxiety.

Conclusions: Increased intakes of α-linolenic acid were associated with a reduced likelihood of depressive symptoms, increased intakes of n-6 fatty acids and linoleic acid were associated with a reduced likelihood of self-reported anxiety, and increased intakes of n-9 fatty acids and oleic acid were associated with an increased likelihood of anxiety. Additional studies are needed to further elucidate associations between unsaturated fatty acids and depression and anxiety.

(Received February 04 2013)

(Revised December 13 2013)

(Accepted January 02 2014)

(Online publication April 29 2014)


  • Unsaturated fatty acids;
  • FFQ;
  • Women;
  • Depression;
  • Anxiety;
  • Mental health


c1 Corresponding author: Email