Lack of Access to Nutritious Meals Associated With Greater Risks of Mental Illness
A lack of access to nutritious food, or food insecurity, is not a small issue. Not only does the lack of steady, nutritious meals negatively affect physical health and development, but new research is starting to link food insecurity with mental illness as well. Negative mental health risks among the food insecure have been shown to be notably higher than among the food secure.
Single mothers are among those who experience food insecurity. As a result, these moms face a tripled risk for depression according to one study. Other studies have found that mental illness for single moms increases as food scarcity continues. Mothers unable to provide regular, healthy meals were shown to experience a greater prevalence of major depression or anxiety compared to moms without that pressure. Kids in these homes also showed negative outcomes. They exhibited more behavior problems, mood disorder or substance abuse the longer food scarcity persisted.
Single mothers and their children are not the only ones who must deal with food insecurity and therefore are not the only ones affected. A study involving 3,500 low income men and women found a definite association between food insecurity and higher risks for depression and even suicidal ideation. Anyone living with food uncertainty may experience a heightened risk for mental illness.
More research is needed, but in the meantime, as a community there are ways we can help. First, we can come together and focus on addressing issues of food insecurity. Second, mental health services need to be made available to low income community members. At Family Guidance Center our doors are open to all the members of our community. If economic pressures are getting you down, we’re here to help. Please stop by and make an appointment. We can help give you the tools to cope in healthy ways.