DOI: 10.1111/spc3.12869 ISSN:

Sense of purpose and food insecurity during the COVID‐19 pandemic

Patrick L. Hill, Caryn E. Oshiro, Teresa A. Hillier, Victor J. Strecher
  • Social Psychology


The COVID‐19 pandemic brought new attention to the issues of food insecurity faced by individuals throughout the United States, a stressor exacerbated by disruptions to work status and supply chains. The burden of food insecurity likely carries consequences for whether individuals feel capable of pursuing their broad goals and life engagements; put differently, food insecurity may pose a threat to people perceiving a sense of purpose in life. The current study tested this claim across three samples taken during 2020 (n = 2009), 2021 (n = 1666), and 2022 (n = 1975). Participants completed inventories for perceived food insecurity, sense of purpose, depressive symptoms, and anxiety, among other measures. Results found consistent negative associations between food insecurity and sense of purpose across all three samples. In addition, food insecurity moderated associations between sense of purpose and depressive or anxiety symptoms. Sense of purpose was more strongly negatively associated with depressive and anxiety symptoms for those participants who reported no food insecurity. That said, sense of purpose remained negatively associated with psychological distress even among those reporting food insecurity.

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