This study was published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. The most extreme form of food insecurity, food insufficiency occurs when families do not have enough to eat.
Among a nationally representative sample of 68,611 adults who participated in the US Household Pulse Survey in October 2020, 11% reported food insufficiency. Of these, 24 percent also reported an unmet mental health need, compared to 9 percent of adults with adequate nutrition.
“The hunger, exhaustion and stress of not eating enough can lead to depression and anxiety,” said senior author Jason Nagata, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University. from California to San Francisco.
“The experience of food insecurity could cause those affected to prioritize food over other needs such as seeking health care, using a lot of time and energy to navigate through them. pantry and free meal services, or to locate and visit affordable food stores, ”Nagata added.
Dietary insufficiency was also associated with higher use of psychiatric drugs: 27% of adults with dietary insufficiency reported using psychiatric medication, compared with 19% of adults with dietary insufficiency.
To better address these problems, healthcare professionals, social workers and clinicians can screen patients for both anxiety and depression symptoms to ensure they have sufficient access to food. said co-author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, assistant professor in the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto.
Researchers argue that clinicians should assess food insecurity and provide referrals to food assistance programs.
“Policymakers should focus on increasing funding for food aid and mental health services under pandemic relief legislation,” Nagata said. “Expanding access to supplementary food programs may help alleviate the need for more mental health services during the pandemic. “