What is food insecurity?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families became food insecure. Food insecurity is when you have limited access to enough good food for an active and healthy life. Recently, researchers looked at how food insecurity impacts mental health problems (such as anxiety, stress and depression) in low-income populations. These results were the first national estimates exploring the connection between food insecurity and mental health in low-income populations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mental health impact
For low-income participants, researchers found that people with less access to healthy food had more mental health problems. Overall, people with food insecurity had higher than average levels of depression, anxiety and stress. In other words, if you have food insecurity caused by the pandemic, then you have a higher risk of mental illness.
What does this mean?
The COVID-19 pandemic alone led to a spike in mental illness in the U.S. For example, at the start of the pandemic, more than one in three low-income Americans had mental health problems such as depression (33%) and anxiety (39%). In addition, becoming food insecure during the pandemic increases chances of mental health problems. This is especially true for low-income populations. This may increase mental health disparities over the long term. This study shows the importance and urgency of new ways to provide mental health care to at-risk communities.