A Global Investigation of Climate Change and Climate-Related Disasters, Food Insecurity, and Mental Health

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Sharpe, Isobel
Epidemiology , Climate change , Natural disasters , Food insecurity , Mental health
Background: Climate change is a determinant of both food insecurity (FI) and poor mental health. FI itself also contributes to poor mental health. The relationship among these three variables is poorly understood for adult and youth populations, particularly at the global level. Objectives: Manuscript 1. The objective of this scoping review was to determine how exposure to climate change and climate-related disasters influences the presence of mental disorders among adults in LMICs. Manuscript 2. The objective of this regression analysis was to determine whether climate-related disaster severity modifies the relationship between FI and poor mental health among youth (ages 15-24). Methods: Manuscript 1. We searched the academic and grey literature, using Covidence to facilitate the review. Included studies had an adult-focused LMIC population, climate change or climate-related disaster exposure, and mental disorder outcome. Manuscript 2. Data on FI and mental health came from the Gallup World Poll, a nationally representative survey conducted in 142 countries. Data on climate-related disasters came from the International Disaster Database. Multilevel negative binomial regression was used to calculate relative risk, testing models with and without climate-related disaster severity as a potential interaction term. Results: Manuscript 1. Fifty-eight studies were identified, spanning 11 LMICs. Most found a positive exposure-outcome association. However, several research gaps were identified, including the lack of unexposed group comparisons and underuse of longitudinal designs. Manuscript 2. The sample consisted of 28,292 youth. Those with moderate or severe FI were significantly more likely to report poor mental health compared to those with none/mild FI (moderate: RR 1.37, 95% CI 1.32-1.34; severe: RR 1.60, 95% CI 1.54-1.66). We also observed a very weak yet significant interaction between FI and disaster severity, which suggested that the country-level relationship between FI and poor mental health may be slightly stronger at greater levels of disaster severity. Conclusion: This thesis contributes to a growing field of global health research exploring the conceptual model surrounding climate change, FI, and mental health among adults and youth. As the effects of climate change worsen, a better understanding of this area is essential to ensure that we can support those affected.
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