The purpose of this paper is to increase the understanding of adolescents’ perceptions of food insecurity and diet quality, and the impact that these factors have on mental health.
This study used a community-based research approach. It gathered qualitative data from 11 in-depth interviews conducted with adolescents aged 13-19. Participants were recruited through various programmes they attended at a community organization in Toronto.
Overall, results indicate that respondents clearly identified a linkage between food insecurity and mental health. They also identified several effects of poor diet quality on mental health. Respondents understood food insecurity and poor diet quality to exist on a continuum. However, they also identified other reasons for making poor dietary choices such as peer pressure. Mental health effects of food insecurity and poor diet quality included sadness, stress, worry, anger, shame, impaired concentration, and fatigue.
This research will help to inform future research design in the field of social determinants of mental health. As well, the findings will help guide the development of interventions targeted towards this vulnerable age group.
This is the first qualitative study to explore food insecurity and poor diet quality, as existing on a continuum, from the perspective of adolescents. The authors are also the first to explore the impact of these factors on the mental health of adolescents, based on their own understanding. What is more, the authors focused on a culturally diverse population living in an underprivileged neighbourhood in Toronto. The authors chose this population because they are at higher risk of both food insecurity and poor diet quality.
This study has been funded by CIHR as part of the Social Aetiology of Mental Illness Training programme at CAMH.
Lachance, L., Sean Martin, M., Kaduri, P., Godoy-Paiz, P., Ginieniewicz, J., Tarasuk, V. and McKenzie, K. (2014), "Food insecurity, diet quality, and mental health in culturally diverse adolescents", Ethnicity and Inequalities in Health and Social Care, Vol. 7 No. 1, pp. 14-22. https://doi.org/10.1108/EIHSC-02-2013-0002Download as .RIS
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