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Public Health Nutr. 2019 Jan;22(1):115-121. doi: 10.1017/S1368980018002574. Epub 2018 Oct 11.

Food insufficiency is associated with depression among street-involved youth in a Canadian setting.

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1British Columbia Centre on Substance Use,400-1045 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, V6Z 2A9, Canada.



Food insufficiency, defined by the experience of hunger, is known to be prevalent and a source of health-related harm among-street involved youth, but little is known about its relationship with depression in this population. Therefore, we sought to assess the association between food insufficiency and symptoms of depression among a cohort of street-involved youth.


Multivariable logistic regression was used to assess the relationship between food insufficiency, defined as being hungry but not having enough money to buy food, and depression as measured by the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression (CES-D) scale.


Data from April 2006 to November 2013 were derived from the At-Risk Youth Study (ARYS), a prospective cohort of street-involved youth who use illicit drugs in Vancouver, Canada.


There were 1066 street-involved youth enrolled in the study, including 340 (31·9 %) females.


Of 1066 youth enrolled in the study, 724 (67·9 %) reported some food insufficiency and 565 (53·0 %) met criteria for depression. Compared with youth who did not report food insufficiency, those who reported often experiencing food insufficiency had a higher likelihood of reporting depression (adjusted OR=2·52; 95 % CI 1·74, 3·67), as did those who reported sometimes experiencing food insufficiency (adjusted OR=1·99; 95 % CI 1·47, 2·70).


Food insufficiency was prevalent and associated in a dose-dependent trend with symptoms of depression among street-involved youth in our setting. Findings highlight the need to address the nutritional and mental health needs of youth and identify pathways by which food insufficiency may contribute to depression among vulnerable populations.


Depression; Homelessness; Mental health; Nutrition; Urban context; Youth


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