Mental disorders more prevalent among adolescents with food insecurity

Published on December 18, 2012 at 4:44 AM · 2 Comments

A study published in the December 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry found that adolescents who experienced food insecurity in the past year have a higher prevalence of mental disorders than adolescents whose families have reliable access to food.

Using data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A), a group of researchers led by Dr. Katie McLaughlin, of Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, examined 6,483 adolescents aged 13-17 years to examine the relationship between food insecurity and past-year mental disorders. Food insecurity was defined as the inability to purchase adequate amounts of food to meet basic needs. The study examined whether food insecurity, as reported by adolescents and a parent or guardian, was associated with the presence of past-year mental disorders in adolescents over and above the effects of other indicators of socio-economic status including parental education, income, and poverty status.

The study found that a one standard deviation increase in food insecurity was associated with a 14% increased odds of past-year mental disorder among adolescents, even after controlling for poverty and numerous other indicators of socio-economic status. Food insecurity was associated with elevated odds of every class of common mental disorder examined in the study, including mood, anxiety, behavioral, and substance disorders. Food insecurity was associated with adolescent mental disorders more strongly than parental education and income.

The findings suggest that the lack of access to reliable and sufficient amounts of food is associated with increased risk for adolescent mental disorders over and above the effects of poverty. These findings are concerning because recent estimates have suggested that more than 20% of U.S. families with children experience at least some degree of food insecurity. Given the dramatic increases in child poverty in the past decade, these findings argue for expanding programs aimed at alleviating hunger in children and adolescents.

Dr. McLaughlin said of the study, "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."

Source:

Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry

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Comments
  1. Tom Burnett Tom Burnett United States says:

    Hunger in America: The Myth

    One should imbibe alarms about pervasive hunger skeptically.

    •  Free school lunch kids waste 46% more food than regular price kids. How can poor kids be hungrier?
    •  School lunch waste is about 30%. Where’s the hunger?
    •  School lunch provides all the calories a kid needs; then poor kids go home and eat the food stamp pop, candy bars, take-and-bake pizza and donuts.
    •  A family of 6 can get $23,900 per year in food stamps, free school food and food bank food. A non-recipient family of 6 usually spends $11,500 per year on food.
    •  A family of 6 can earn up to $55,000 and qualify for food stamps and Women, Infants and Children, WIC.
    •  The poor are adding weight faster than the non-poor.
    •  Arguments as to why the poor make bad choices with food stamps do not stand scrutiny.
    •  The food stamp program this year costs $77 billion. Mr. Obama wants to add $9 billion to that. A healthy food list reform, along the lines of the WIC program, could cut spending in half; no recipient would go hungry and the nation’s deficit would be substantially reduced.
    •  At least 57% of food stamp spending is for foods high in high fructose corn syrup, cholesterol, fat and sodium. Food stamps buy unhealthy food.
    •  The USDA and the Obama Administration are aggressively expanding food stamps, free school lunch and after school supper.
    •   The USDA rebuffed New York City’s request to drop soda pop from permissible food stamp purchases.

The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News-Medical.Net.
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