HealthDay News — For young adults, food insecurity is associated with chronic disease and with mental health problems, according to two studies published online Oct. 1 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine and the Journal of Adolescent Health.

Jason M. Nagata, M.D., from the University of California in San Francisco, and colleagues examined the correlation between food insecurity and chronic disease using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health for young adults ages 24 to 32 years. The researchers found that 11 percent of the 14,786 young adults in the sample were food-insecure. In adjusted models, compared with young adults who were food-secure, those who were food-insecure had increased odds of self-reported poor health, diabetes, hypertension, being very overweight, and obstructive airway disease (odds ratio, 2.63, 1.67, 1.40, 1.30, and 1.48, respectively).

In a second study, Nagata and colleagues used the same data to examine the correlation between food insecurity and self-reported mental health and sleep. The researchers found that the odds of mental health problems, including a depression diagnosis, anxiety or panic disorder diagnosis, and suicidal ideation, in the previous 12 months were increased for food-insecure young adults (adjusted odds ratios, 1.67, 1.47, and 2.76, respectively). Correlations were also observed for food insecurity with poorer sleep outcomes, including trouble falling and staying asleep (adjusted odds ratios, 1.78 and 1.67, respectively).

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“Young adulthood may be an important period to screen for and address food security given the development of many of these mental health conditions and sleep problems during this time period,” Nagata and colleagues write in the second study.

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