Each day children in the U.S. go hungry, and it is compromising their well being. Having one’s basic needs met is not only important for the development of physical health, but also mental health, especially for those who are young.
A new study, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, sought to determine if fear of going hungry was related to the past-year presence of mental disorders in teens. Analysis of data for nearly 6,500 adolescents was gathered from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). Teens in the survey ranged from age 13 to 17. For purposes of the study, food insecurity was determined as not being able to access enough food to prevent going hungry.
Even after investigators took into account factors such as poverty and other socio-economic issues, they uncovered that even slight increases in food insecurity significantly increased one’s chances of having a past-year mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or addiction. For each single increase in standard deviation, there was a 14 percent rise in the chance of having a mental health disorder.
This is particularly concerning because over one in five families in the U.S. cope with some form of food insecurity as reported in a Psych Central article. Per the research, food insecurity was a better predictor of mental health disorders in teens than even the parents’ education level or income.
Study authors believe the results suggest that, in addition to poverty, not having enough food to satisfy hunger further elevates the risk of mental health problems in adolescents. The findings of the study emphasize the importance of creating more programs aimed at addressing food shortages amongst children and teens.
The struggle to meet basic needs can be tough for many families, but is even tougher when mental health problems like substance abuse, depression, or anxiety are present. The Family Guidance Center has resources that can guide you through the process of assessment, diagnosis and treatment. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, contact the Family Guidance Center for ways we can help.