Food insufficiency and mental health service utilisation in the USA during the COVID-19 pandemic

Public Health Nutr. 2021 Jul 15;1-6. doi: 10.1017/S1368980021003001. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Objective: To estimate the association between food insufficiency and mental health service utilisation in the USA during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Design: Cross-sectional study. Multiple logistic regression models were used to estimate the associations between food insufficiency and mental health service utilisation.

Setting: US Census Household Pulse Survey data collected in October 2020.

Participants: Nationally representative sample of 68 611 US adults.

Results: After adjusting for sociodemographic factors, experiencing food insufficiency was associated with higher odds of unmet mental health need (adjusted OR (AOR) 2·90; 95 % CI 2·46, 3·43), receiving mental health counselling or therapy (AOR 1·51; 95 % CI 1·24, 1·83) and psychotropic medication use (AOR 1·56; 95 % CI 1·35, 1·80). Anxiety and depression symptoms mediated most of the association between food insufficiency and unmet mental health need but not the associations between food insufficiency and either receiving mental health counselling/therapy or psychotropic medication use.

Conclusions: Clinicians should regularly screen patients for food insufficiency, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Expanding access to supplemental food programmes may help to mitigate the need for higher mental health service utilisation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keywords: COVID-19; Food insecurity; Food insufficiency; Mental health; SARS-CoV-2; Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.