Food Insecurity Is Associated With Poorer Mental Health and Sleep Outcomes in Young Adults


Nagata, Jason M.; Palar, Kartika; Gooding, Holly C.; Garber, Andrea K.; Whittle, Henry J.; Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten; & Weiser, Sheri D. (2019). Food Insecurity Is Associated With Poorer Mental Health and Sleep Outcomes in Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Health. vol. 65 (6) pp. 805-811


Purpose The aim of the study was to determine the association between food insecurity, mental health, and sleep outcomes among young adults. Young adulthood represents an important developmental period when educational and economic transitions may increase the risk for food insecurity; however, little is known about associations between food insecurity and health outcomes in this period. Methods Cross-sectional nationally representative data of U.S. young adults aged 24–32 years from Wave IV (2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health were analyzed in 2018. Multiple logistic regression analysis was conducted with food insecurity as the independent variable and self-reported mental health (depression, anxiety, and suicidality) and sleep (trouble falling and staying asleep) outcomes as the dependent variables. Results Of the 14,786 young adults in the sample, 11% were food insecure. Food-insecure young adults had greater odds of mental health problems including a depression diagnosis (1.67, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.39–2.01), anxiety or panic disorder diagnosis (1.47, 95% CI 1.16–1.87), and suicidal ideation in the past 12 months (2.76, 95% CI 2.14–3.55). Food insecurity was also associated with poorer sleep outcomes including trouble falling (adjusted odds ratio 1.78, 95% CI 1.52–2.08) and staying (adjusted odds ratio 1.67, 95% CI 1.42–1.97) asleep. Conclusions Food insecurity is associated with poorer mental and sleep health in young adulthood. Health care providers should screen for food insecurity in young adults and provide referrals when appropriate. Future research should test interventions to simultaneously combat food insecurity and mental health problems in young adulthood.



Food security

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Journal Article

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Journal of Adolescent Health


Nagata, Jason M.
Palar, Kartika
Gooding, Holly C.
Garber, Andrea K.
Whittle, Henry J.
Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten
Weiser, Sheri D.

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