Optimism in dire times: The buffering role of optimism in the relationship between food insecurity and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic

Shani Pitcho, Oren Heller, Yung Chun, Talia Meital Schwartz-Tayri, Michal Grinstein-Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Considering the need to gain a deeper understanding of the protective factors associated with coping with food insecurity, specifically in times of severe prolonged stress, the current longitudinal study seeks to examine the role of optimism in the relationship between food insecurity and adverse mental health outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic. A three-wave longitudinal study involving 1921 Israeli adults was performed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants completed questionnaires assessing food insecurity, anxiety, depression, optimism, and socio-demographic characteristics. To explore the relationship between food insecurity and symptoms of anxiety and depression, as well as the moderating role of optimism in this relationship, we employed a set of panel regression models with individual fixed effects. Our results indicate that the degree and change in food insecurity over time were positively associated with both anxiety and depression symptoms, whereas the degree and change in optimism were negatively correlated. Optimism was found to moderate the association between food insecurity and anxiety symptoms over time, but not the association between food insecurity and depression symptoms. A subgroup analysis revealed that optimism moderated the relationship between food insecurity and anxiety and depression for women, but not for men; for married/coupled individuals but not for singles; for non-parents with regard to anxiety, and for parents with regard to depression. Our results highlight the need to practice and enhance optimism in times of great despair, uncertainty, and hardship, especially in situations of food insecurity where tangible change may take time.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere30385
JournalHeliyon
Volume10
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 May 2024

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Existential positive psychology
  • Food insecurity
  • Pandemic
  • Positive existential psychology
  • Tragic optimism

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General

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