What Being A Vegetarian Says About Your Personality

A vegetarian diet can ward off chronic diseases if it's well planned, according to Harvard Medical School. In other words, feasting on french fries for lunch might technically be vegetarian, but that might not be best for your health. Vegetarians tend to eat less saturated fat and more key nutrients and disease-fighting phytochemicals.

About 5% of people in the United States follow a vegetarian diet, according to Gallup. It shouldn't be a surprise that a vegetarian diet is more prevalent among people aged 18 to 54. People will drop meat from their diet for various reasons. Some might go vegetarian for animal welfare reasons, and others might eschew meat to reduce their carbon footprint. A 2017 article in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior found that about one in four people who followed a vegetarian diet did so for a specific health problem such as obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

While decades ago, being a vegetarian might have brought to mind a particular stereotype, these days you probably know several people in your social circles who don't eat meat. Although vegetarians aren't a monolith, research shows that vegetarians tend to be more agreeable and open to new experiences than their meat-eating cohorts.

Personality traits and values of vegetarians

A 2023 meta-analysis in Appetite compiled the results of 15 studies that looked at the Big Five personality traits of vegetarians compared to omnivores. This analysis included a total of almost 70,000 people. Vegetarians scored higher in agreeableness, which includes characteristics such as sharing, comforting, and helping other people. Openness to experience is another Big Five trait associated with vegetarians. This personality characteristic means that you are more creative and eager to experience something new.

A 2019 article in Frontiers in Psychology looked at the Dark Triad personality characteristics, which are Machiavellianism, narcissism, and psychopathy. Females who don't eat meat tend to score lower on these Dark Triad characteristics, particularly Machiavellianism and narcissism.

Vegetarians are also led by different values compared to omnivores, according to a 2021 systematic review in Frontiers in Psychology. They tend to value universalism, hedonism, and self-direction, compared to omnivores, who value power. A 2014 presentation at the International Conference on Social Sciences and Humanities found that vegetarians were much happier. However, that doesn't mean that vegetarians are free from mental health problems.

Vegetarians may have poor mental health outcomes

Individual studies have found that people who follow a vegetarian diet might be more likely to have mental health issues. A 2018 article in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that male vegetarian men scored higher on depression tests than meat-eaters. Vegetarians and predominantly vegetarians had higher rates of depressive disorders, according to a 2012 article in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Vegetarians reported more negative moods, lower self-esteem, and having less meaning in life in a 2018 article in Ecology of Food and Nutrition.

Yet when you pull some of the research together, vegetarians have lower levels of anxiety, according to a 2021 meta-analysis in Nutrition Reviews. However, vegetarians had a higher risk of depression. The study said that the results of some studies conflicted with others, suggesting that more high-quality research was needed.

It's not that a vegetarian diet causes mental health issues. Instead, the study suggested reverse causation, meaning that people with psychological conditions might turn to a vegetarian diet to improve their health. Because many of the studies showed that the greater mental health risk for vegetarians was for younger adults, the researchers pointed out the possibility that nutritional deficiencies could explain the higher risk. In particular, vegan diets low in essential amino acids and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids could exacerbate mental health conditions.