In food insecurity is a higher possible rate

In recent years, the conversation
about mental health among the world population has increased significantly.
Similarly, more and more studies are being conducted on college campuses and
within families across the country to discover the extent of food insecurity
experienced by students. Food insecurity is a term that is “defined by the
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as having ‘limited or uncertain
access to nutritious, safe foods necessary to lead a healthy lifestyle.’ The
USDA notes that ‘households that experience food insecurity have reduced
quality or variety of meals and may have irregular food intake'” (CUNY). One of
many unfortunate consequences of this issue of food insecurity is a higher
possible rate of mental illness. Mental health and food insecurity are two
topics that are often treated similarly in society yet are not always spoken
about together.

            Food
insecurity is not a simple condition to define nor is it simple to diagnose as
this is often reliant on self-reporting. The condition of being food insecure
includes extreme hunger, having to skip meals, compromising on nutritional
value of meals, and relying on emergency food sources such as food pantries,
soup kitchens, and food banks. Food insecurity has long been associated with
many health related concerns focused around the nutrition and quality of the
food being consumed but only recently have studies qualitatively linked it to a
decrease in mental health. Having an increase in food insecurity activates an
individual’s psychosocial stressors. A psychosocial stressor is one that is
defined as “a major life influencing event that leads to intense stress so
profound that it can contribute to the development or aggravation of an
existing psychological disorder” (Nugent). Living under conditions of extreme
food insecurity results in high levels of stress and in some cases trauma. This
condition is not something to be quickly dismissed especially when “food
insecurity was found to be associated with 14 percent higher odds of a mental
disorder—including mood, anxiety, behavior and substance disorders”. This is
the sad reality that on average, one in four students on college campuses
across the country are facing some level of food insecurity.

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            The
leading study on mental health and how it relates to food insecurity was
conducted by Dr. Andrew Jones, a professor in the Department of Nutritional
Sciences at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. His research was conducted
across 149 countries surveying individuals of age fifteen or older. Dr. Jones
states, “using the aggregated global data set, individual-level FI food
insecurity was associated with poorer mental health status in a dose–response
fashion” (Elsevier). The results of this study found that there was a stronger
relationship between food insecurity and mental health than the relationship
between socioeconomic variables and mental health. While this study encompasses
a large amount of data worldwide, it has its own set of biases and limitations.
For example, Dr. Jones addresses the fact that “the possibility that the
direction of the association between FI food insecurity and mental health
status could be the reverse — that poor mental health could drive food insecurity”, however these two issues are still correlated despite
the directionality and must be addressed as such. This study will no doubt inspire
further research into this relationship and hopefully a globally robust
movement to inform and cause interventions addressing both issues
comprehensively.

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