Food insecurity connected to depression and other health issues

Portuguese researchers recently published a study in Frontiers in Public Health, showing a connection between food insecurity and depression. This follows a 2017 study out of Uganda that showed a similar connection.

Food security, according to a 1996 World Food Summit report, is “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food insecurity, then, is when there is inconsistency in who has access (and when) to such food.

The researchers studied the following data of over 5,600 adults representative of the Portuguese population:

  • Food insecurity
  • Lifestyle
  • Adherence to Mediterranean diet
  • Self-reported non-communicable disease
  • Health-related quality of life
  • Physical function
  • Health resource consumption

What they discovered was that food insecurity (unreliable access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food) was an issue for about 1 in every 5 adults. They also found that those experiencing food insecurity were less likely to follow the Mediterranean diet and more likely to experience several health issues:

  • Depression
  • Lower quality of life
  • Diabetes
  • Rheumatic disease
  • Disability
  • Hospitalization
  • More medical appointments

Nutritious food plays such a critical role in our mental health. We, as a society, need to do more to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, nutritious food.