A customer shops at a meat counter in a grocery store in Montreal, on Thursday, April 30, 2020. A new report from Statistics Canada suggests Canadians who dealt with food insecurity at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor and report anxiety symptoms than those who did not. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Food insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic linked to poor mental health: StatCan

‘Food insecurity in itself can be a stressful experience’

Canadians who worried about having enough food during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor and report anxiety symptoms than those who did not, Statistics Canada said in a new report Wednesday.

“Food insecurity in itself can be a stressful experience, so associated with that can be feelings of frustration or powerlessness or even shame, and those kinds of feelings could trigger existing psychological problems or amplify existing ones or trigger new ones,” said Heather Gilmour, an analyst with Statistics Canada and co-author of the report.

The report said 14.6 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted in May reported experiencing food insecurity within the previous 30 days.

One in five Canadians who took part in the survey also perceived their mental health as fair or poor, or reported moderate or severe anxiety symptoms.

“It wouldn’t be unusual to expect that someone experiencing food insecurity could have so much anxiety that would maybe be considered a response, a normal response, under the circumstances,” Gilmour said.

ALSO READ: Canadian families will pay up to $695 more a year for groceries in 2021, report says

“We also thought that perhaps these feelings might be compounded by the COVID context because of social isolation or concerns about health risks or financial insecurity.”

The agency found that the prevalence of fair or poor mental health and moderate or severe symptoms of anxiety was much higher for those dealing with inadequate access to food.

“We did find that, yes, food insecurity was associated with higher odds or higher risk of having either anxiety symptoms or poor self-recorded mental health,” she said. “That seemed to increase, that risk increased, the greater the food insecurity that people experienced.”

The report says those experiencing some level of food insecurity were more likely to be male, younger and single, or more likely to live in a larger household or a home with children, and to be unemployed or to have experienced a financial impact from COVID-19.

“We also controlled for other factors in our study so there were associated demographic factors as well as whether people had employment or whether they perceived a financial risk because of COVID,” she said.

“Even above and beyond those circumstances, we’re finding the food and security was still associated with poor mental-health outcomes”

Statistics Canada said this study is the first to examine the association between household food insecurity and self-perceived mental health and anxiety symptoms among Canadians during the pandemic.

Maan Alhmidi, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

food security

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The emergency department at Peace Arch Hospital in White Rock, B.C., in July 2020. (Black Press Media)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation reaches $12 million goal

New operating suites to open this fall

Peace Arch Hospital Foundation executive director Stephanie Beck speaks at a 2017 groundbreaking ceremony. In March 2020, she announced the Rapid Response Grant Program, aimed at providing financial assistance during the pandemic. (File photo)
Peace Arch Hospital Foundation launches youth program

Youth in Action designed for students who want to make an impact in their community

The RCMP logo is seen outside Royal Canadian Mounted Police “E” Division Headquarters, in Surrey, B.C., on April 13, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Surrey RCMP asking for dash-cam video of ‘suspicious incident’

Incident involves a newer model Toyota Rav 4 SUV

Elvira D’Angelo, 92, waits to receive her COVID-19 vaccination shot at a clinic in Montreal, Sunday, March 7, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
‘It’s been a good week’: Tam hopeful on vaccines as pandemic anniversary nears

Tam says the addition of two new vaccines will help Canadians get immunized faster

The Kimber family of Boston Bar lost their home in a fire. Blaine Kimber’s daughter created a fundraiser to help rebuild the home with the goal of $100,000. (Screenshot/GoFundMe)
Fundraiser created for Boston Bar family that lost everything in weekend fire

Witnesses say the Kimber family escaped the fire without injury, but their home is a total loss

(The Canadian Press)
‘Worse than Sept. 11, SARS and financial crisis combined’: Tourism industry in crisis

Travel services saw the biggest drop in active businesses with 31 per cent fewer firms operating

Pictures and notes in from friends and classmates make up a memorial in support and memory of Aubrey Berry, 4, and her sister Chloe, 6, during a vigil held at Willows Beach in Oak Bay, B.C., on December 30, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Mother of slain daughters supports recent changes to Canada’s Divorce Act

Sarah Cotton-Elliott said she believed her children took a back seat to arranging equal parenting

Victoria man Brett Andersen is asking for people’s help to secure him one of eight free tickets to the moon. (Screenshot/@brettandersen Instagram)
Victoria man wants your help securing a free ticket to the moon

Japanese billionaire offering eight people a trip to the moon

The Conservation Officers Service is warning aquarium users after invasive and potentially destructive mussels were found in moss balls from a pet store. (BC Conservation Officers Service/Facebook)
Aquarium users in B.C. warned after invasive mussels found at pet store

Conservation officers were told the mussels were found in a moss ball from a Terrace pet store.

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

The family of injured Willoughby resident Ronald Gerald Jesso is hoping someone saw something that will help solve the mystery of how he came to be so badly hurt on the morning of Feb. 22. Jesso is still in hospital. (Jesso family/Special to Langley Advance Times)
An appeal to help solve the mystery of an injured Langley man

Family of Ronald Gerald Jesso asks witnesses to come forward

Most Read