Being hungry during the pandemic had more impact on mental health than losing a job.
It’s no surprise that hunger can lead to anxiety, depression and stress. But several recent studies about the connection between food insecurity and mental health during the pandemic are even more eye-opening.
One study found that food insecurity during the health crisis was highly associated with anxiety and depression. Most remarkable from the research—the effect of food insecurity was almost three-fold that of the effect of losing a job during the pandemic. People who struggled to access adequate food during the pandemic were 257% more likely to experience anxiety and 253% more likely to suffer from depression. Losing a job during the pandemic was associated with a 32% increase in risk for anxiety and a 27% increase in risk for depression.
The study also showed that households with children reported worse mental health outcomes than those without children. Food insecurity was associated with the highest risk for anxiety and depression among people with children. When the pandemic forced schools to close, families lost access to school meals for their children, and many had to choose between jobs and childcare, increasing the financial stress of low-income households.
Given food insecurity’s impact on mental health, we were working towards adding mental health services to the Community Table Health Clinic even before the pandemic struck. We had to set the project aside during the health crisis to focus on food distribution. But with this alarming new research, we are renewing our commitment to provide access to mental health services to those struggling with hunger.
We hope to share our progress on adding mental health services soon. In the meantime, you can learn more about the connection between hunger, mental health and the pandemic in the studies below.