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Fear of Going Hungry Linked to Mental Health Issues In Teens

Fear of Going Hungry Linked to Mental Health Issues In Teens New research finds that adolescents who feared going hungry in the past year have a higher prevalence of mental disorders than adolescents whose families have reliable access to food.

Researchers examined data garnered by the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Adolescent Supplement (NCS-A). From this data set they examined the relationship between food insecurity and past-year mental disorders among 6,483 adolescents aged 13-17 years of age.

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 socioeconomic status including parental education, income, and poverty status.

Researchers discovered a one standard deviation increase in food insecurity was associated with a 14 percent 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.

In fact, food insecurity was associated with adolescent mental disorders more strongly than parental education and income.

Experts believe 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 percent 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, the study results argue for expanding programs aimed at alleviating hunger in children and adolescents.

Lead researcher¬†Katie McLaughlin, Ph.D., 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 socioeconomic 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.

‚ÄúThis underscores the importance of increasing the reach and uptake of programs designed to assist families struggling to provide adequate food for their children.”

The study is published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Source: Elsevier

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Fear of Going Hungry Linked to Mental Health Issues In Teens

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Fear of Going Hungry Linked to Mental Health Issues In Teens. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 29, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 18 Dec 2012)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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