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

NES hosts grades 5 - 7 in Hagensborg (file photo)
COVID-19 exposure confirmed at Nusatsum Elementary School

The exposure was in grade 5 and took place Jan. 6, 2021

Jeffery Snow has been our community paramedic for the past three years and has worked as a paramedic for over three decades. He is now certified to offer COVID-19 testing to clients (Caitlin Thompson photo)
Bella Coola’s community paramedic can now test people for COVID-19

Jeffery Snow became certified to offer COVID-19 testing on Jan. 13, 2021

The first cases were reported by the Nuxalk EOC on Jan. 7 (file photo)
COVID-19 cases climb to 25 in Bella Coola

The first cases were reported by the Nuxalk EOC on Jan. 7

A COVID-19 outbreak has been declared at Cariboo Memorial Hospital by Interior Health. IH said Wednesday afternoon four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19. (Angie Mindus photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Cariboo Memorial Hospital by Interior Health

Four staff members have tested positive for COVID-19

SD49 has suspended in-class instruction due to rising COVID-19 cases (file photo)
SD49 suspends face-to-face instruction due to COVID-19

School is still open for childcare services

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

Seasonal influenza vaccine is administered starting each fall in B.C. and around the world. (Langley Advance Times)
After 30,000 tests, influenza virtually nowhere to be found in B.C.

COVID-19 precautions have eliminated seasonal infection

Most Read