The COVID-19 pandemic led to increased rates of anxiety, depression, posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychological distress. Some studies found that women living in low- and middle-income countries were more vulnerable to increased depression during the pandemic. Food and water insecurity are known contributors to depression; however, it is not clear if the combination of food and water insecurity led to elevated rates of depression during the pandemic. Charles and colleagues conducted a study in Indonesia to explore this issue and report their results in the April 2023 issue of The Journal of Nutrition.
Surveys were conducted at three time points among women (n = 323) living in informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia and enrolled in the Revitalizing Informal Settlements and their Environments trial. Depression was measured in December 2019, and between February and March 2021, while food and water insecurity were measured between August and September 2020.
Food insecurity, water insecurity, and joint food and water insecurity were positively associated with depression. Within those with known prepandemic depression scores, the strongest relationship to depression was found when both food and water insecurity was experienced. The authors concluded that the combination of food and water insecurity was more associated with depression, and suggest food and water insecurity should be addressed together in order to improve women’s metal health and well-being.
In an editorial, Frongillo discusses the importance of reliable experience-based measures of food and water insecurity, and how they provide an opportunity to not only determine their independent impacts upon the nutritional, physical, mental, economic, and political well-being, but also to detect how they intersect to influence households and individuals. Although the study by Charles and colleagues found a synergistic impact of food and water insecurity, Frongillo points out that a study in Kenya failed to find an interaction. As a result, Frongillo suggests the synergies may be dependent on the measures used and the populations studied.
Charles I, Salinger A, Sweeney R, Batagol B, Barker SF, Nasir S, et al. Joint food and water insecurity had a multiplicative effect on women’s depression in urban informal settlements in Makassar, Indonesia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 1244-1252, doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.01.010.
Frongillo EA. Intersection of food insecurity and water insecurity. Journal of Nutrition, Volume 153, Issue 4, April 2023, Pages 922-923, doi.org/10.1016/j.tjnut.2023.02.024.
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