Almost half of people who suffer depression have chocolate cravings, and most say it improves their mood, an Australian study has found.

The study, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, found cravings more common among people whose symptoms of depression included feeling irritable and being scared of social rejection.

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About 54 percent of people reported food cravings when depressed, and 45 percent specifically nominated chocolate — including 51 percent of women and 31 percent of men.

Only 20 percent of food cravers nominated foods apart from chocolate.

About 61 percent of chocolate-cravers said it could improve their mood, in particular by making them less anxious and irritable.

The researchers quizzed 2,692 Australian adults who had suffered a depressive episode of more than two weeks which required treatment.