Hunger leads to poor mental health in teens


Teens who experienced food insecurity associated with the perception of scarcity have a higher prevalence of mental disorders than adolescents whose families have reliable access to food, according to a new study published in the Journal of American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Food insecurity is an ability to provide adequate food

Using data from the national Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), researchers examined 6,483 adolescents between the ages of 13 and 17. They were looking for the relationship between food insecurity and past-year mental disorders. They defined food insecurity as the inability to purchase adequate amounts of food to meet basic needs. The study report looked at whether food insecurity, as reported by the teens, was associated with the presence of mental disorders during adolescence over and above the effects of other indicators of socio-economic status including parental education level, income and poverty status.

Mental disorders increased by 14% with food insecurity

They found that one standard deviation in food insecurity equalled a 14% increase in the odds of mental disorder, even after factoring other contributing factors. Food insecurity was associated with every class of common mental disorder examined in the study. These included anxiety, mood, behavior and substance disorders. It was a stronger indicator for mental health than parental education or poverty.

Kids need more access to programs for struggling families

“The fact that food insecurity was so strongly associated with adolescent mental disorders even after we accounted for the effects of poverty and other aspects of socio-economic status suggests that lack of access to reliable and sufficient amounts of food has implications not only for children’s physical health, but also their mental health. This underscores the importance of increasing the reach and uptake of programs designed to assist families struggling to provide adequate food for their children,” explained Dr. McLaughlin.

Recent studies suggest that as many as 20% of American families may be struggling with providing enough food for their families.

Source: Journal of American Academy of child and Adolescent Psychiatry, MedicalNewsToday


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