Year: 2021 Source: Canadian Journal of Public Health. (2021). 112(5), 843-852. doi: 10.17269/s41997-021-00557-w. SIEC No: 20210803

Objective: Little is known about the association between mental health and diminished food worry during the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper examines worry about having enough food to meet household needs and its association with mental health during the early months of the pandemic in Canada.

Methods: Data are drawn from the first round of a multi-round mental health monitoring survey. Online surveys were administered between May 14 and 29, 2020, to a nationally representative sample of Canadian adults (n = 3000). Logistic regression models were used to examine associations between food worry and mental health indicators (anxious/worried, depressed, worse mental health compared with pre-pandemic, and suicidal thoughts/feelings), after adjusting for socio-demographic characteristics and pre-existing mental health conditions. Fully adjusted models explored the impact of controlling for financial worry due to the pandemic in the previous 2 weeks.

Results: Overall, 17.3% of the sample reported food worry due to the pandemic in the previous 2 weeks, with the highest prevalence found among those with a reported disability (29.3%), Indigenous identity (27.1%), or pre-existing mental health condition (25.3%). Compared with participants who did not report food worry, those who did had higher odds of reporting feeling anxious/worried (OR=1.36, 95% CI: 1.08-1.71) and suicidal thoughts/feelings (OR=1.87, 95% CI: 1.24-2.80) when controlling for socio-demographics, pre-existing mental health conditions, and financial worry.

Conclusion: This paper provides insights about the associations between food worry and mental health in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic and indicates the need for improved policies and social supports to mitigate food worry and associated mental health outcomes.