Food insecure Americans' mental health needs unmet

·1-min read

Americans experiencing food insufficiency were three times as likely to lack mental health support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Food insufficiency is the most extreme form of food insecurity, and comes about when families do not have enough to eat.

A nationally representative sample survey found 11 per cent of adults reported food insufficiency, and of those, 24 per cent also reported an unmet mental health need compared to 9 percent of food-sufficient adults.

The new national study was published in Public Health Nutrition.

Lead author Jason Nagata, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco, said: "Hunger, exhaustion, and stress related to not getting enough food to eat may lead to depression and anxiety.

"The experience of food insecurity could lead affected people to prioritize food over other needs such as seeking health care, using up considerable time and energy to navigate food pantries and free meal services, or locate and visit affordable food stores."

A higher percentage of food-insufficient adults also reported using psychiatric medications in comparison to those who had healthy access to proper nutrition.

Researchers want clinicians to assess for food insecurity, and provide referrals to food assistance programmes if necessary.

Dr Nagata added: "Policymakers should focus on increasing funding for food assistance and mental health services as part of pandemic relief legislation. Expanding access to supplemental food programs may help to mitigate the need for more mental health services during the pandemic."

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