Food insecurity and its associations with bulimic-spectrum eating disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders in a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2021 Jun 27. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02126-5. Online ahead of print.


PURPOSE: To examine cross-sectional associations between food insecurity and 12-month eating disorders, mood disorders, and anxiety disorders among U.S. adults.

METHODS: This study used data collected between 2001 and 2003 from 2914 participants in the National Comorbidity Survey-Replication, a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (mean age = 44.9 years; 53.4% female). Twelve-month food insecurity was assessed with a modified version of the Short Form U.S. Household Food Security Scale. Twelve-month DSM-IV diagnoses of mental disorders were based on the World Health Organization Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Modified Poisson regression models were conducted, adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, and income-to-poverty ratio.

RESULTS: Food insecurity was experienced by 11.1% of participants. Food insecurity was associated with greater prevalence of bulimic-spectrum eating disorders (prevalence ratio [PR] = 3.81; 95% confidence interval [CI] 2.26-6.42), mood disorders (PR = 2.53; 95% CI 1.96-3.29), and anxiety disorders (PR = 1.69; 95% CI 1.39-2.07).

CONCLUSION: Results indicate that food insecurity is associated with a range of internalizing mental disorders, though these findings should be confirmed with contemporary data to reflect DSM-5 diagnostic updates and the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Findings from this study emphasize the need to expand food insecurity interventions and improve access to mental health services for food-insecure populations.

PMID:34175963 | DOI:10.1007/s00127-021-02126-5