Prevalence and psychopathology of vegetarians and vegans - Results from a representative survey in Germany.
The aim of the study was to investigate the prevalence of, and attitudes toward, vegetarianism and veganism. We also assessed the association between vegetarianism/veganism and eating disorder, depressive, and somatic symptoms. A cross-sectional questionnaire survey in adults in Germany that was representative in terms of age, gender, and educational level was carried out. Data from 2449 adults (53.5% females) were included. Mean age was 49.6 (SD 17.1) years. A total of 5.4% of participants reported following a vegetarian or vegan diet. While the majority of participants agreed that vegetarian diets are healthy and harmless (56.1%), only 34.8% believed this to be true of vegan diets. The majority of participants also believed that a vegetarian (58.7%) or vegan (74.7%) diet can lead to nutritional deficiency. Female gender, younger age, higher education, lower body mass index (BMI), and higher depressive and eating disorder symptoms were found to be associated with vegetarianism/veganism. We did not find increased physical complaints in the group of vegetarians/vegans. Our results point toward a moderate prevalence of vegetarianism/veganism among the general population. Our findings suggest that health care professionals should keep eating disorder pathology, affective status in mind when dealing with individuals who choose a vegetarian/vegan dietary pattern.