Nutritional Psychiatry: A Solution for Socioeconomic Disparities in Access to Mental Health Care?

Abstract

As in all sectors of healthcare, socioeconomic status (SES) affects an individual’s ability to benefit from psychiatric care.Mood and anxiety disorders are the most common disorders for which psychiatric care is sought, and while there are options for effective treatments available, they are often accompanied by additional costs. Further to costs, issues with the heterogeneity of mental illness have led resarchers to explore other options for psychatric care. Nutritional psychiatry is an emerging field that uses dietary and nutritional approaches to target the gut-brain axis for the prevention and treatment of mental illness, including mood and axiety disorders. Nutritional psychiatry has been promoted as being an advantageous alternative to classic mental health treatments due to it’s broader accessibility, highlighting the lower costs associated with lifestyle changes than medication and psychotherapy. At a glance, this may appear accurate, but upon closer examination, may not be entirely true. Factors surrounding healthy eating, food deserts, the supplement industry, and adherence to lifestyle changes are all barriers present in nutritional psychiatry that are accompanied by added costs. These costs likely contribute to a disparity between low SES and high SES individuals benefitting from the treatment, in a similar way to classic treatments. This commentary reviews these factors to suggest that nutritional psychiatry may not be the accessible treatment option we purport it to be, and that as clinical researchers in the field, we must be aware of these disparities.

https://doi.org/10.29173/hsi288
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