The COVID-19 global pandemic caused an increase in food insecurity among patients with cystic fibrosis (CF), according to a new study published in Pediatric Pulmonology.

Food insecurity among a group of CF patient households increased from 18.8% prepandemic to 21.8% during the pandemic. Patients who lived in a food-insecure household also reported worse mental health and self-care than those who were food secure.

“Although all people with CF faced significant challenges during the pandemic, those with food insecurity had worsening mental health, weight, treatment adherence, and financial security compared to those without food insecurity,” the authors said.

Abnormal mental health screenings were much more common in the food insecure group (53.1% vs 16.2%; P <.001) during the pandemic. While depression and anxiety increased in both groups during the pandemic, patients with food insecurity still had significantly higher percentages: 37.0% vs 12.0% for depression (P <.001) and 50.6% vs 14.1% for anxiety (P <.001).

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Patients with food insecurity also had trouble keeping up with nutrition and caring for their CF during the pandemic. Patients with CF with food insecurity had trouble obtaining food (82.7% vs 24.4%), required food assistance (45.7% vs 4.1%), and reported weight loss (32.1% vs 13.1%) than food-secure patients (P <.001 for all comparisons).

Patients with food insecurity also had a harder time obtaining medications (17.3% vs 5.5%), adhering to medication (12.4% vs 1.7%), and had decreased airway clearance (13.6% vs 5.8%) than those who were food secure (P <.001 for all).

A total of 5.9% of patients went from food security to insecurity during the pandemic while 3.0% changed from insecurity to food security. Food insecurity was more prevalent in children with CF than adult patients with CF and this number increased during the pandemic. Food insecurity was prevalent in 23.2% of children prepandemic which increased to 27.2% during the pandemic compared to 16.6% of adult patients prepandemic and 19.0% during the pandemic.

The pandemic caused changes for many patients and families with CF. During the study, a total of 372 participants were recruited to complete online questionnaires between May 2020 and February 2021. Of these participants, 247 were adults with CF, and 125 were parents or guardians of a child with CF.

Reference

Lim JT, Ly NP, Willen SM, et al. Food insecurity and mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in cystic fibrosis households. Pediatr Pulmonol. Published online February 2, 2022. doi:10.1002/ppul.25850