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Food Insecurity and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents Aged 12–15 Years from Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Meng Wang*

School of Sports and Health, Nanjing Sport of Institute, Nanjing, 210014, China

* Corresponding Author: Meng Wang. Email:

International Journal of Mental Health Promotion 2021, 23(2), 177-187.


Purpose: Little is known about the role of food insecurity (FIS) on depressive symptoms among adolescents. Thus, this study aimed to explore the association between FIS and depressive symptoms among adolescents aged 12–15 years from low- and middle-income countries across the world. Methods: Data from the Global school-based Student Health Survey were analyzed in 51,702 adolescents [mean (SD) age 13.8 (1.0) years; 49.3% girls). Self-reported measures assessed depressive symptoms during the past 12 months, and food insecurity. Participants reporting yes for depressive symptoms. FIS was categorized into five levels, including ‘never’, ‘rarely’, ‘sometimes’, ‘most of the time’ and ‘always’. Multivariable logistic regression analysis was performed, and a country-wise meta-analysis was undertaken to compare country difference in the associations between FIS and depressive symptoms. Results: The prevalence of depressive symptoms was 30.0%, respectively. Compared with those reporting never for FIS, adolescents with increased severity of FIS were more likely to report depressive symptoms regardless of gender. Country-wise meta-analysis demonstrated that having FIS versus not having FIS was associated with 60% greater odds for depressive symptoms (OR = 1.60; 95% CI: 1.52–1.69) but with a moderate between-country heterogeneity (I2 = 12.7%). Conclusion: The current study indicates that alleviating FIS may be an effective prevention against depressive symptoms among adolescents from LMICs. Future studies should adopt improved study design to confirm or negate our research findings, which informs more efficient public mental health interventions.


Cite This Article

Wang, M. (2021). Food Insecurity and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents Aged 12–15 Years from Low- and Middle-Income Countries. International Journal of Mental Health Promotion, 23(2), 177–187.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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