Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2021Peer reviewedOpen access

Young adults’ transition to a plant-based diet as a psychosomatic process: A psychoanalytically informed perspective

Von Essen, Elisabeth


This study examined transition to a plant-based diet by young adults and the challenges and conflicts this brings. Interviews were conducted with nine young adults in Sweden and the answers were analysed guided by a psychological method from descriptive phenomenology. The results indicate that the transition to a plant-based diet is a process comprising five dimensions: 1) Exploring new ways of living based on health anxieties, 2) regulating conflicting emotions through differentiation, 3) transforming traditional models into new alternatives, 4) confirming new skills and abilities and 5) integrating experiences and emotions into a whole. These five dimensions reflect how transition to a plant-based diet is experienced physically and emotionally. The results also indicate that plant-based meals and ingredients used in the new diet are loaded with symbols and conflicting emotions. Psychoanalytically informed theory, especially object relation theory, was used in discussing what can happen to the mind during the transition. In a wider perspective, this study provides insights into how a dietary transition can bring stability to the life of young adults and help them endure and master their situation. More research is needed to assess the role of mental health in transitioning to a plant-based diet and to draw more general conclusions, an area where psychodynamic theory can provide insights.


Conflicting emotions; Health anxiety; Integration; Life and death; Meat and dairy products; Mental state

Published in

2021, Volume: 157, article number: 105003

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG3 Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Nutrition and Dietetics
    Other Health Sciences
    Applied Psychology

    Publication identifier


    Permanent link to this page (URI)