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Food Insecurity can affect the mental well being of people!!

Food Insecurity may be a rising problem in the world now. But what is even scarier than the shortage of food is how this particular feeling of not being able to have access to food or simply not being able to eat food can affect both the mental well being of little kids and adults. While people were initially worried about how lack of food could affect their physical well being, researchers have now found out that feelings of food insecurity could take a toll on their mental health too.

Read and find out more about why the problem of Food Insecurity should be taken seriously.

Food Insecurity can affect your mental health !!

Food Insecurity is known to affect at least 795 million people worldwide. Now while it is a complex phenomenon encompassing food availability, affordability, utilization and even the social norms that define acceptable ways to acquire food, food insecurity can affect people’s health beyond it impact on nutrition.

A new research study was able to determine that food insecurity was linked with poor mental health and certain psychosocial stressors across global regions (149 countries), independent of individuals’socioeconomic status. 

Nearly one in three people (29.2 %) globally experience common disorders during their lifetimes like depression, anxiety, and somatic symptom disorders. 

Also, food insecurity may be a key contributor to common health disorders through several different mechanisms. 

How can this occur? 

First, By generating uncertainty over the ability to maintain food supplies or to acquire enough food in the future, food insecurity may provoke a stress response that may contribute to anxiety and depression. 

Furthermore, gaining access to foods is socially unacceptable ways can induce feelings of alienation, shame, powerlessness and guilt that are linked with depression. 

Food insecurity may also increase socioeconomic disparities within households and communities that could also increase cultural sensitivities and influence over mental well being.

The Study!! 

Researchers investigated data which included 147,826 individuals across 11 world regions encompassing 149 countries. The extent of food insecurity ranged from 18.3 % in East Asia to 76.1 % in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The mental health status was determined using the Negative Experience Index (NEI) - and the Positive Experience Index (PEI) along with 2 five-question surveys that examined 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 Results !!

  • The PEI was highest in Latin America and the Caribbean region (79.4 %).
  • The PEI was lowest in Russia and the Caucasus (59.2 %).
  • The NEI was lowest in Central Asia (17.4 %). 
  • The NEI was highest in the Middle East and the North African region (34.9 %).

Researchers also found out that Food Insecurity was linked with poorer mental health status in a dose-response manner by comparing NEI vs FI for multiple age ranges. However, an inverse effect was found for PEI vs FI data.

What do the researchers have to say?

Researchers said that there was a consistent dose-response trend that suggested a causal link between FI and mental health status. This trend suggested that the psycho-social stressors that underlie the mental health indices examined may be boosted within increasing FI. 

This was explained with the help of an example, take a look -

  • Anxiety was associated with one’s ability to acquire enough food in the future. It may be provoked even under the conditions of mild food insecurity and was likely to increase with moderate and severe food insecurity.
  • Alternatively, multiple pathways from food insecurity to poorer mental health outcomes may be invoked with increasing severity of food insecurity. 
  • Under certain conditions of a more severe kind of food insecurity, chances are high that some individuals may resort to acquiring food in socially unacceptable ways as a means of coping strategy.
  • Later the feelings of guilt and shame linked with this behavior could combine pre-existing anxiety triggered by mild food insecurity to yield even poorer mental health conditions.  

The Conclusion !! 

According to one researcher, the possibility that the direction of the link between food insecurity and mental health status could also be the reverse, where the poor mental health condition could drive food insecurity.

Ther research was carried out by Andrew D.Jones, Ph.D. of the Department of Nutritional Sciences, School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Food Insecurity may be a threat to the developmental and psycho-social health of children!!

Researchers found that household food insecurity, (ie. without having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food, even for a temporary period) may be linked with children’s behavioral, academic and emotional problems beginning as early as infancy.

food insecurity was known to occur in 21 % of families with children and adolescents in the United States while the potential developmental and behavioral implications of this prevalent social determinant of health was still far from being completely understood by researchers.

The Study !!

Researchers analyzed 23 peer-reviewed articles on the associations between food insecurity and adverse childhood developmental behavioral outcomes including early cognitive development, academic performance, inattention, externalizing behaviors and depression in 4 groups which included infants, preschoolers, school age and adolescents.

The Results !!

  • Articles that examined infants and toddlers suggested that food insecurity posed a developmental risk, impaired child attachment, mental pro-efficiency and cognitive assessment scores.
  • In Preschool years, studies had found that there was a link between food insecurity, externalizing and internalizing behaviors and mental health symptoms and also less optimal self-control and interpersonal skills.
  • In school-aged children, a link was found between food insecurity and impaired academic performance, inattention, increased hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, emotional problems, missing out schools days having less adaptive interpersonal relations, self-control and approaches to learning, more internalizing and externalizing behaviors and even facing a greater likelihood of having consulted a psychologist.
  • Lastly, the studies involving adolescents indicated associations between food insecurity and anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation, attempted suicide, seeing a counselor, dysthymia, getting a suspension from school, having troubles getting along with others and even substance abuse disorders.

The Conclusion !!

According to researchers, physicians don’t usually think of child nutrition programs like school meals as prevention or intervention for the new morbidity -developmental and behavioral or emotional problems which afflicted a substantial proportion of children in the US. 

The findings suggested that these programs, which are known to decrease food insecurity, may boost the potential of children to learn, pay attention and even experience better emotional health. 

The research was carried out by researchers from the Boston University School of medicine (BUSM) and Boston Medical Center