Studies suggest that people who are food insecure are more likely to experience mental illness. However, little is known about which aspects of food insecurity place individuals most at risk of mental illness. The purpose of this study was to establish the prevalence of mental illness among food insecure Canadians, and examine whether mental illness differs between those who are consuming insufficient amounts of food versus poor quality foods.
This analysis utilized the publically available dataset from the Canadian Community Health Survey cycle 4.1. Bivariable and multivariable logistic regression were used to examine the associations between food insecurity and mental health disorder diagnosis, while adjusting for potential confounders. Stratified analyses were used to identify vulnerable sub-groups.
Among 5,588 Canadian adults (18-64 years) reporting food insecurity, 58 % reported poor food quality and 42 % reported food insufficiency. The prevalence of mental health diagnosis was 24 % among participants with poor food quality, and 35 % among individuals who were food insufficient (hunger). After adjusting for confounders, adults experiencing food insufficiency had 1.69 adjusted-odds [95 % confidence interval (CI): 1.49-1.91] of having a mental health diagnosis. Stratified analyses revealed increased odds among women (a-OR 1.89, 95 % CI 1.62-2.20), single parent households (a-OR 2.05, 95 % CI 1.51-2.78), and non-immigrants (a-OR 1.88, 95 % CI 1.64-2.16).
The prevalence of mental illness is alarmingly high in this population-based sample of food insecure Canadians. These findings suggest that government and community-based programming aimed at strengthening food security should integrate supports for mental illness in this population.
This paper reports results from a case study on household food insecurity needs and the interventions that address them. It aimed at comparing households' perceptions on food insecurity experience and vulnerability to those of other stakeholders: community workers, programme managers and representatives from donor agencies. Semi-structured interviews with 55 households and 59 other stakeholders were conducted. Content analysis was performed, using a framework encompassing food sufficiency, characterization of household food insecurity and vulnerability of households to food insecurity. Overall, the results draw attention to a gap between households and the other stakeholders, where the later do not seem always able to assess the realities of food-insecure households. Other areas of divergences include: characteristics of food insecurity, relative importance of various risk factors related to food insecurity and the effectiveness of the community assistance to enhance the households' ability to face food insecurity. These divergent perceptions may jeopardize the implementation of sustainable solutions to food insecurity. Training of stakeholders for a better assessment of households' experience and needs, and systematic evaluation of interventions, appear urgent and highly relevant for an adequate response to households' needs. Collaboration between all stakeholders should lead to knowledge sharing and advocacy for policies dedicated to poverty reduction.