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

Just Posted

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

Craft Brewing and Malting program student Ellie Hadley plans to use her newfound skills and knowledge to set up a distillery in Port Alberni. (PHOTO COURTESY LEE SIMMONS)
Something’s brewing with North Island College’s newest program

Port Alberni grad Ellie Hadley hopes to turn new skills into thriving business

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van burst into flames just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Kids from a MOSS Sailing Camp sail just off Canal Waterfront Park in Alberni Inlet during a day camp in August 2014. (AV NEWS FILE PHOTO)
MOSS Sailing camps return to Alberni Valley

One-week camps designed for kids will take place at Sproat Lake

Robert Gunn of Alberni Climate Action loads garbage discovered in the Alberni Inlet around Cous Creek into his canoe during a recent ocean shoreline cleanup. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Alberni Climate Action group creates NIC scholarship

Students attending college full time may apply through NIC

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The BC Ferries’ website is down for the second time in one week from what they say is likely an overwhelming increase in web traffic. (Black Press Media file photo)
Surging web traffic crashes BC Ferries’ site again

Website down for second time this week

John Furlong told the Vancouver Board of Trade on Feb. 20, 2020 that he thinks the city could and should bid for the 2030 Winter Games. (CP photo)
PODCAST: John Furlong lays out a ‘provincial’ B.C. plan to host the 2030 Winter Olympics

Podcast: Chat includes potential role for Vancouver Island communities

The pilot of this single-engine propeller plane was unhurt after crash-landing in a Como Road orchard Friday, June 18. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
Plane crash lands into Grand Forks orchard, pilot injured

RCMP have secured the crash site, pending investigation by Transport Canada

A tenant walks in front of her home on Boundary Road on Friday, June 18, 2021 after it was destroyed by fire the night before in Chilliwack. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Family homeless after fire rips through Chilliwack house

Turtle rescued, no one seriously hurt following Boundary Road fire in Chilliwack

Wild rabbits are all over Chilliwack, but people often think they’re someone’s lost pet and try to ‘save’ them. But the owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room says good intentions can have bad consequences for wild animals. (Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Owner of Chilliwack’s Reptile Room asks people to leave wild animals in the wild

Amber Quiring says people who think they’re helping are actually doing more harm than good

Photos displayed at a vigil for former Nanaimo outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found June 3 and whose death RCMP are investigating as a homicide. (News Bulletin photo)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

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

Most Read