Background: Vegetarian nutrition is gaining increasing public attention worldwide. While some studies have examined differences in motivations and personality traits between vegetarians and omnivores, only few studies have considered differences in motivations and personality traits between the 2 largest vegetarian subgroups: lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans. Objectives: To examine differences between lacto-ovo-vegetarians and vegans in the distribution patterns of motives, values, empathy, and personality profiles. Methods: An anonymous online survey was performed in January 2014. Group differences between vegetarians and vegans in their initial motives for the choice of nutritional approaches, health-related quality of life (World Health Organization Quality of Life-BREF (WHOQOL-BREF)), personality traits (Big Five Inventory-SOEP (BFI-S)), values (Portraits Value Questionnaire (PVQ)), and empathy (Empathizing Scale) were analyzed by univariate analyses of covariance; P values were adjusted for multiple testing. Results: 10,184 individuals completed the survey; 4,427 (43.5%) were vegetarians and 4,822 (47.3%) were vegans. Regarding the initial motives for the choice of nutritional approaches, vegans rated food taste, love of animals, and global/humanitarian reasons as more important, and the influence of their social environment as less important than did vegetarians. Compared to vegetarians, vegans had higher values on physical, psychological, and social quality of life on the WHOQOL-BREF, and scored lower on neuroticism and higher on openness on the BFI-S. In the PVQ, vegans scored lower than vegetarians on power/might, achievement, safety, conformity, and tradition and higher on self-determination and universalism. Vegans had higher empathy than vegetarians (all p < 0.001). Discussion: This survey suggests that vegans have more open and compatible personality traits, are more universalistic, empathic, and ethically oriented, and have a slightly higher quality of life when compared to vegetarians. Given the small absolute size of these differences, further research is needed to evaluate whether these group differences are relevant in everyday life and can be confirmed in other populations.

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