DescriptionDespite rising levels of food insecurity across England, the needs of older adolescents are often overlooked. Policy-driven food provision such as breakfast clubs and free lunch are generally scaled back once young people reach post-16 education, but recent research has shown that food insecurity continues to be an issue amongst young people in college and university settings, though the implications of food insecurity for this group are largely unknown. This study therefore aimed to investigate whether there were differences in mental health and wellbeing between food secure and food insecure adolescents, focussing specifically on stress and depression. An opportunistic sample of 418 participants (89% female) aged 16-17 years completed standardised self-report measures of food security, stress and depression online. A one-way ANOVA identified significant differences between food secure and food insecure participants (p<.001) with participants categorised as experiencing high food security reporting significantly lower scores for stress (Mean=13.79) and depression (Mean=18.3) than participants categorised as experiencing low (Mean stress=16.9; Mean depression=25.57) or very low (Mean stress=17.4; Mean depression=28.63) food security. The findings highlight a relationship between food security and mental health in older adolescents at a time when many will be preparing to make an important transition to greater independence through higher education and/or employment. The findings highlight a need for further research into the support needs of this particular age group at this critical stage of development. The findings also draw attention to food insecurity as a potential consideration for practitioners supporting adolescent mental health.
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