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Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr;39(2):494-503. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyp386. Epub 2010 Feb 15.

Fish consumption and polyunsaturated fatty acids in relation to psychological distress.

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  • 1National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), Department of Environmental Health, Kuopio, Finland.



It has been suggested that high fish consumption improves mental well-being. The aim of this study was to assess whether high fish consumption or omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) intake was associated with reduced self-reported psychological distress.


We used three cross-sectional data sets, the nationwide Health 2000 Survey (n = 5840), the Fishermen Study on Finnish fishermen and their family members (n = 1282) and the Finntwin16 Study on young adults (n = 4986). Data were based on self-administered questionnaires, interviews, health examinations and blood samples. Psychological distress was measured using the 12-item and 21-item General Health Questionnaires (GHQs). Fish consumption was measured by a food frequency questionnaire (FFQ, g/day) and independent frequency questions (times/month). Dietary intake (g/day) and serum concentrations (% from fatty acids) of PUFAs were determined. Relationships were analysed using regression analysis.


Regardless of the measure, fish consumption and omega-3 PUFA dietary intake were not associated with distress in any of the data sets. In contrast to the hypothesis, high serum docosahexaenoic acid was associated with high distress in the Fisherman Study men. Some non-linear associations were detected between serum omega-3 PUFAs or fish consumption (times/month) and distress. In the Fishermen Study, the associations were modified by alcohol consumption, smoking and physical activity.


Our results do not support the hypothesis that fish consumption or omega-3 PUFA intake are associated with reduced psychological distress in the general population or in a population with high fish consumption.

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