Nav: Home

Food insecurity can affect your mental health

April 27, 2017

Ann Arbor, MI, April 27, 2017 - Food insecurity (FI) affects nearly 795 million people worldwide. Although a complex phenomenon encompassing food availability, affordability, utilization, and even the social norms that define acceptable ways to acquire food, FI can affect people's health beyond its impact on nutrition. A new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine determined that FI was associated with poorer mental health and specific psychosocial stressors across global regions (149 countries), independent of individuals' socioeconomic status.

Nearly one in three individuals (29.2%) globally experience a common mental disorder during their lifetime, such as depression, anxiety, and somatic symptom disorders. FI may be a key contributor to common mental disorders through several different mechanisms. First, by generating uncertainty over the ability to maintain food supplies or to acquire sufficient food in the future, FI can provoke a stress response that may contribute to anxiety and depression. Furthermore, acquiring foods in socially unacceptable ways can induce feelings of alienation, powerlessness, shame, and guilt that are associated with depression. FI may also magnify socioeconomic disparities within households and communities that could increase cultural sensitivities and influence overall mental well-being.

Andrew D. Jones, PhD, of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA, conducted this research using data from the 2014 Gallup World Poll (GWP). The GWP is a series of nationally representative surveys of individuals 15 years and older that uses probability sampling covering both urban and rural areas. FI data were available for 147,826 individuals across 11 world regions encompassing 149 countries. The extent of FI ranged from 18.3% in East Asia to 76.1% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Mental health status was determined using the Negative Experience Index (NEI) and the Positive Experience Index (PEI), two five-question surveys that examine topics such as pain, sadness, enjoyment, feelings of respect, and other factors. Data for the mental health indices were available for 152,696 individuals. The PEI was highest in Latin America and the Caribbean region (79.4) and lowest in Russia and the Caucasus (59.2), while the NEI was lowest in Central Asia (17.4) and highest in the Middle East and North Africa region (34.9).

Dr. Jones found that FI was associated with poorer mental health status in a dose-response fashion, comparing NEI vs. FI for multiple age ranges. An inverse effect was found for PEI vs. FI data.

The consistent dose-response trend suggests a causal association between FI and mental health status. According to Dr. Jones, "This trend suggests that the psychosocial stressors that underlie the mental health indices examined may be amplified with increasing FI. For example, anxiety related to one's ability to acquire sufficient food in the future may be provoked even under conditions of mild FI, and is likely to increase with moderate and severe FI. Alternatively, multiple pathways from FI to poorer mental health may be invoked with increasing severity of FI. Under conditions of more severe FI, for example, individuals may resort to acquiring food in socially unacceptable ways as a coping strategy. The feelings of shame and guilt associated with this behavior could compound pre-existing anxiety precipitated by mild FI to yield even poorer mental health conditions."

Dr. Jones acknowledges the possibility that the direction of the association between FI and mental health status could be the reverse - that poor mental health could drive FI. However, this is the first study to carry out a global analysis of this association and it should inspire further research. Dr. Jones explained, "Developing robust monitoring systems and strengthening the measurement of both FI and mental health to more comprehensively understand their relation across contexts may help to inform interventions that can effectively address the mental health consequences of FI."
-end-


Elsevier Health Sciences

Related Mental Health Articles:

The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health: Mental health harms related to very frequent social media use in girls might be due to exposure to cyberbullying, loss of sleep or reduced physical activity
Very frequent use of social media may compromise teenage girls' mental health by increasing exposure to bullying and reducing sleep and physical exercise, according to an observational study of almost 10,000 adolescents aged 13-16 years studied over three years in England between 2013-2015, published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Can Facebook improve your mental health?
Contrary to popular belief, using social media and the internet regularly could improve mental health among adults and help fend off serious psychological distress, such as depression and anxiety, finds a new Michigan State University study.
A gut feeling for mental health
The first population-level study on the link between gut bacteria and mental health identifies specific gut bacteria linked to depression and provides evidence that a wide range of gut bacteria can produce neuroactive compounds.
Mental health care increasing most among those with less distress
A new study shows that more Americans are getting outpatient mental health care and the rate of serious psychological distress is decreasing.
On-again, off-again relationships might be toxic for mental health
A researcher from the University of Missouri says that the pattern of breaking up and getting back together can impact an individual's mental health and not for the better.
Could mental health apps lead to overdiagnosis?
Mental health app marketing commonly presents mental health problems as ubiquitous and individuals as responsible for mental wellbeing; overdiagnosis and denial of the social factors related to mental health could result.
Student-run mental health education efforts may improve college mental health climate
Studies estimate that 20 percent to 36 percent of college students cope with some form of serious psychological distress, yet only about a third receive any services despite the fact they often have access to on-campus help.
How mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative
New research published in The Lancet Psychiatry finds that mental health diagnosis should be more collaborative.
Self-rating mental health as 'good' predicts positive future mental health
Researchers have found that when a person rates their current mental health as 'positive' despite meeting criteria for a mental health problem, it can predict good mental health in the future, even without treatment.
Medicating for mental health
University of Guelph researchers found evidence that a single bout of exhaustive exercise protects against acute olanzapine-induced hyperglycemia.
More Mental Health News and Mental Health Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#538 Nobels and Astrophysics
This week we start with this year's physics Nobel Prize awarded to Jim Peebles, Michel Mayor, and Didier Queloz and finish with a discussion of the Nobel Prizes as a way to award and highlight important science. Are they still relevant? When science breakthroughs are built on the backs of hundreds -- and sometimes thousands -- of people's hard work, how do you pick just three to highlight? Join host Rachelle Saunders and astrophysicist, author, and science communicator Ethan Siegel for their chat about astrophysics and Nobel Prizes.