3 devastating effects of hunger on the body

May 18, 2021
by Tori Waite and Olivia Thoelke

A bulging stomach. A boney frame. That’s what many people imagine when they think about the impact of hunger on the body. And it’s true, extreme hunger and malnourishment can have that effect.

Yet, hunger can also affect the mind and body in ways that are less visible but just as devastating. For the 42 million people in America who may struggle to put food on the table due to the pandemic, this reality makes an impact on their lives every day. 

Hunger affects your mental health

Facing hunger can be stressful. Constantly worrying about where your next meal will come from can cause mental health problems such as depression, anxiety and even posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that mothers with school-aged children who face severe hunger are 56.2% more likely to have PTSD and 53.1% more likely to have severe depression. The inability to feed your loved ones can have traumatic effects on a person’s mental health.  

Hunger's Effects on Your Body Impact School Performance

It’s hard to concentrate in school when you’re hungry. Roaring stomachs cause children to be cranky, hyperactive, and aggressive. These behavioral issues can distract kids from their school work, leading to developmental delays and learning disabilities. Fifty percent of children facing hunger will need to repeat a grade. And the signs that a child is struggling with hunger can often be hard to spot.

Hunger Increases Your Risk of Chronic Diseases

According to the USDA, there is a strong connection between hunger and chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. In fact, 58% of the households that receive food from the Feeding America network have one member with high blood pressure. And 33% have a member with diabetes.

We’ve all rushed out of the house without eating breakfast. And when 10 o’clock rolls around and your coffee cup is empty, focusing becomes difficult and your stomach starts voicing its opinion...yet it’s too early for lunch!

But many people across the country aren’t just skipping breakfast. And the more meals they miss, the more severe hunger affects their minds and bodies.