Breastfeeding and mental health in adulthood: A birth cohort study in Brazil

Christian Loret De Mola, Bernardo Lessa Horta, Helen Gonçalves, Luciana De Avila Quevedo, Ricardo Pinheiro, Denise Petrucci Gigante, Janaína Vieira Dos Santos Motta, Fernando C. Barros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Background Breastfeeding is negatively associate with behavioral and internalization problems, psychological stress, and depressive/anxiety symptoms. However, studies evaluating specific mental health disorders are scarce. We aimed to assess the association between breastfeeding and mental health outcomes in young adults. Methods In 1982, hospital deliveries in Pelotas (Southern Brazil) were identified; liveborns were examined and their mothers interviewed (n=5914). Information on breastfeeding was collected in early childhood. In 2012-13, at 30 years of age, we used the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview (MINI) for the diagnosis of major depression (MD), generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and social anxiety disorder (SAD). In addition, we used the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI-II) and the Self-reported Questionnaire (SRQ-20), to evaluate depressive symptoms severity and common mental disorders (CMD), respectively. We used multivariable regression models to evaluate the association between breastfeeding and mental health outcomes. Results We evaluated 3657 individuals. Prevalence of CMD, MD, GAD and SAD was 24.3%, 7.9%, 12.7% and 3.6%, respectively. In multivariable models the odds of having a more severe case of depression (BDI-II) was smaller among those breastfed for 6 or more months (OR=0.69 95%CI [0.53-0.89]). We observed a similar pattern for MD and CMD, however, confidence intervals included the reference. Limitations We had no information on home environment characteristics during childhood. Lack of power and a small effect size could explain why we did not detect an association between breastfeeding and MD. Conclusion Breastfeeding reduced the odds of having more severe depressive symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)115-119
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Anxiety
  • Brazil
  • Breastfeeding
  • Cohort
  • Depression
  • Mental health


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