Niles co-authors study on changes to food security and health outcomes since COVID-19
Meredith Niles and co-authors conducted a Northern New England survey in March-June of 2021 to understand the initial and continued impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food security, health behaviors, and health outcomes. A total of 988 adults (562 in Maine and 426 in Vermont) responded regarding food access and availability, health behaviors such as diet composition and exercise, and use of habit-forming substances (e.g. alcohol, tobacco, etc.) before and in the year following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Key findings include:
- 39.1% of Maine and 43.2% of Vermont respondents indicated weight gain since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Individuals with food insecurity were significantly less likely to consume fruits and vegetables and engage in physical activity than those who report being food secure.
- Nearly half of respondents indicated anxiety or depression during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Those with persistent food insecurity (i.e. food insecure before and during the COVID-19 pandemic) were 8.8 times more likely to experience higher levels of stress, 2.6 times more likely to experience anxiety and be diagnosed with diabetes type 2 and hypertension during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ were more likely to be food insecure, 4 times more likely to report anxiety or depression, and also experienced higher levels of stress than individuals who did not identify as LGBTQ+ during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Individuals with food insecurity were up to 7 times more likely to skip or stop their medication for anxiety, depression, and/or hypertension, as compared to food secure respondents.
- Individuals reporting the use of substances prior to the onset of the pandemic (e.g., tobacco, alcohol, and drugs) were more likely to have increased their use of additional habit-forming substances during the COVID-19 pandemic. Substance use was also associated with a higher prevalence of stress.
Download the full report from the University of Vermont to learn more.
Laurent, Jennifer; Bertmann, Farryl; Alpaugh, Mattie; Belarmino, Emily H.; Bliss, Sam; Malacarne, Jonathan; McCarthy, Ashley C.; Merrill, Scott C.; Schattman, Rachel E.; Yerxa, Kathryn; and Niles, Meredith T., "Change in Food Security and Health Outcomes Since the COVID-19 Pandemic in Northern New England" (2022). College of Nursing and Health Sciences Faculty Publications. 4.