From the Field –Mental Health and Food Security amongst Displaced Syrians

  • Calia, C. (Invited speaker)
  • Boden, L. (Assessor)
  • Shahar Abdullateef (Assessor)
  • Joy Abi Habib (Assessor)
  • Maria Azar (Assessor)
  • Grant, L. (Assessor)
  • Suk-Jun Kim (Assessor)
  • Klema (Assessor)
  • Mazeri, S. (Assessor)
  • Kate Robertson (Assessor)
  • Zuntz, A. (Assessor)
  • Joseph Burke (Invited speaker)

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesOral presentation


There is an established bidirectional relationship between food security and mental health amongst conflict-affected populations (IASC, 2007). The COVID-19 outbreak exacerbates this dynamic with increased stress and undermined access to nutritious foods compromising immune systems exposed to a highly infectious disease (Pérez-Escamilla, Cunningham & Hall-Moran, 2020). There is a dearth of data on the relationship between mental health and food security in Syria and its neighbours during COVID-19. From the Field is a multidisciplinary, global research collaboration seeking to address these gaps, exploring the impact of the virus on the lives and livelihoods of Syrians living in Lebanon, Iraqi Kurdistan, Jordan, Syria and Turkey using bespoke remote ethnographic approaches. Syrian responders to the crisis, the University of Edinburgh and Cara co-created and deployed 100 questionnaire surveys, comprising in part the Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-Being Scale (Clarke, et al., 2011) and the Food Security Coping Strategies Index (Maxwell, Watkins, Wheeler & Collins, 2003), through local researchers/practitioners using accessible technologies. The mean mental wellbeing score of the sample was 24.58 (SD= 4.25; Min= 14.08, Max= 35) with women’s wellbeing (n=25, M=22.83, SD=3.36) lower than men’s (n=75, M=25.17, SD=4.37); t(98)=2.44, p=.016. Notably, greater food insecurity was correlated with lower wellbeing (rs(100)= - .255, p=.01), as were lower meal frequency (t(96)= -2.52, p= .013) and reduced food intake (t(98) 3.32, p= .001). Qualitative data further illuminated the interconnections between food security and psychosocial wellbeing, expanding on the context within which Syrians are experiencing COVID-19 through various aspects of their daily lives. In exploring the relationship between food security and mental health amongst Syrians, this study enhances epidemiological understanding and supports calls for mainstreaming mental health in humanitarian interventions (Horn, Waade & Kalisky, 2016). Further attention to these connections is necessary if global health objectives are to be met during this COVID-19 ‘syndemic’ (Horton, 2020).
Period3 Oct 2020
Event titleThe Second Syria Health Conference
Event typeConference
LocationLondon, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Mental health
  • food insecurity
  • Syrians