A customer shops at a meat counter in a grocery store in Montreal, on Thursday, April 30, 2020. A new report from Statistics Canada suggests Canadians who dealt with food insecurity at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor and report anxiety symptoms than those who did not. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

A customer shops at a meat counter in a grocery store in Montreal, on Thursday, April 30, 2020. A new report from Statistics Canada suggests Canadians who dealt with food insecurity at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor and report anxiety symptoms than those who did not. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Food insecurity during COVID-19 pandemic linked to poor mental health: StatCan

OTTAWA — A new report from Statistics Canada suggests Canadians who dealt with food insecurity during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring were more likely to perceive their mental health as poor and report anxiety symptoms than those who did not.

The agency says 14.6 per cent of respondents to a survey conducted in May reported experiencing food insecurity within the previous 30 days.

One in five Canadians who took part in the survey also perceived their mental health as fair or poor, or reported moderate or severe anxiety symptoms.

The agency found that the prevalence of fair or poor self-perceived levels of mental health and moderate or severe symptoms of anxiety was much higher for those dealing with inadequate access to food in their households.

It says those experiencing some level of food insecurity were more likely to be male, younger and single, or more likely to live in a larger household or a home with children, and to be unemployed or to have experienced a financial impact from COVID-19.

Statistics Canada says this study is the first to examine the association between household food insecurity and self-perceived mental health and anxiety symptoms among Canadians during COVID-19 pandemic.