According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over 47 million Americans are currently using food stamps. This means they have low incomes, and are more likely to live in areas without reliable access to healthy foods. A study recently published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics looked at more than 600 people who used food stamps in Pittsburg, PA. The subjects lived in what health experts call “food deserts,” or places where it is hard to find fresh, unprocessed fruit, vegetables, and meats. The results of the study showed that there was a strong link between BMI (body mass index) and depression in this group.
Past studies have shown that people with lower incomes are more likely to be obese. Low-income women, for example, are almost two times more likely to obese than women who live well above the poverty line. While it is clear that those who are on food stamps–or who live in food deserts–need extra help to get the nutritious foods they need, this study shows that they may also need better access to mental health care. More research would be needed to see if better nutrition leads to better mental health and well-being, but in the meantime, here are a few low-cost steps you can take to improve your emotional health:
- Contact a local health clinic to find out about free or low-cost counseling services in your area.
- Take a few minutes each day to close your eyes and breathe deeply.
- Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. Going to bed at the same time every day, and relaxing before you sleep, may help.
If you are feeling depressed, anxious, or just overwhelmed, call a hotline or helpline. They are usually free and available 24 hours a day.