Effects of Starvation on Adults and Children
In 2018, 1 out of every 6 children in the United States faced hunger on a regular basis. Additionally, families in nearly 4.5% of American households lack the resources for an adequate amount of food. However, these numbers only begin to illustrate the severity of starvation; it is also important to understand how hunger effects the lives of suffering individuals.
Starvation can be devastating to our minds and bodies. Mentally, cognitive function decreases while famished and anxiety is likely to develop. Physically, starvation ravages a person’s muscles, bone, skin, and internal organs. A lack of sufficient nutrients also weakens the immune system and frequently results in disease. On a long-term scale, people affected by hunger are more susceptible to chronic diseases as well, like diabetes and heart disease.
In children, starvation can cause even greater troubles. It is often accompanied by stunted growth and cognitive impairments. The issue of a weakened immune system is exacerbated at this age and hungry kids may experience long periods of illness. Children with nutritional deficiencies also appear to be prone to depression and subsequent unhealthy coping mechanisms, which might go as far as eating disorders, substance abuse, or self-harm.
Children under the stresses of malnourishment must also contend with complications that directly hinder their academic performance. Problems relating to short-term memory and attention span regularly develop and can sometimes lead to ADHD. Negative impacts on behavior are another symptom and might be manifested with difficulty in controlling emotions or interacting in social settings. Extended absences due to illness make it nearly impossible to keep up with classes. As such, school may be a struggle for these kids, where they are asked to stay focused for long periods of time and connect with their peers.
Organizations like the Backpack Buddies are helping to combat these problems. In 2017, we were able to contribute more than $45,000 to child-hunger organizations in Loudoun County alone. With continued support, an increasing number of local kids can have healthy, productive, and comfortable lives knowing where their next meal is coming from.
Alisha Coleman-Jensen, et al. “Household Food Security in the United States in 2017.” 2017.
Janice Ke and Elizabeth Ford-Jones. “Food insecurity and hunger: A review of the effects on children’s health and behaviour.” 2015.
Colin Dourish, et al. “Associations Between Core Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Both Binge and Restrictive Eating.” 2018.