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A new study from Canada suggests households where adults have chronic illnesses, such as diabetes, arthritis, migraines, back problems, heart disease and mental illness, are more likely to struggle to put food on the table. And the more illnesses the adults have, the more severe the level of food insecurity in their households.
Researchers from the Universities of Toronto and Calgary came to this conclusion after analyzing survey data on over 77,000 people aged 18 to 64 living in Canada. They report their findings in the online issue of the Journal of Nutrition.
In their report, the team explains how previous analyses of surveys done in Canada and the US have shown that food insecurity - where people do not have access at all times to enough food for an active healthy life - is linked to poorer self-rated health and several chronic conditions.
These studies have inferred that food insecurity leads to poor health, a plausible conclusion.
But Valerie Tarasuk, professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Toronto, and colleagues wanted to look at the link in the other direction: how might people's health impact their ability to put food on the table?
So they designed a study that looked at how the presence of an adult with one or more chronic illnesses might affect the odds of a household being food insecure. And where it does, the team investigate what might be the extent to which that adult's poor health affects the severity of the household's food insecurity.
They sourced their data from the 2007-2008 Canadian Community Health Survey, which covered over 77,000 people aged 18 to 64. The survey collected information on households as well as individual respondents.
Using statistical tools, the researchers looked for links between health and household food insecurity, while taking into account potential influencers like income, education, household size, and other socio-demographic characteristics.
The team found that most chronic illnesses increased the odds of household food insecurity, regardless of household socio-demographic characteristics.
The analysis also showed that the odds of a household having food insecurity went up with the number of chronic illnesses in the adults.
Thus, a household where the adults had 3 chronic illnesses was much more likely to struggle to put food on the table than one where the adults had only 1 chronic illness.
And the team also found that among food-insecure households, severe food insecurity was more likely when the adults had several chronic conditions than none.
Prof. Tarasuk and colleagues conclude:
"The chronic ill-health of adults may render their households more vulnerable to food insecurity. This has important practice implications for health professionals who can identify and assist those at risk, but it also suggests that appropriate chronic disease management may reduce the prevalence and severity of food insecurity."
While they did not investigate the reasons behind their results, the team suggests two possibilities:
Prof. Tarasuk also led a project called PROOF, which recently reported that food insecurity affects nearly four million Canadians, and of those who went hungry in 2011, over 1 million were children.
According to a US Department of Agriculture report, in 2011, an estimated 14.9% of American households were food insecure for at least some of the year, including 5.7% with very low food security (up from 5.4% in 2010).Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Chronic Physical and Mental Health Conditions among Adults May Increase Vulnerability to Household Food Insecurity; Valerie Tarasuk, Andrew Mitchell, Lindsay McLaren, and Lynn McIntyre; J. Nutr. published online 28 August 2013; DOI: 10.3945/jn.113.178483; Abstract.
Additional source: University of Toronto news release via Eurekalert on 29 August 2013.
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Paddock, Catharine. "Chronically ill struggle to put food on the table." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 4 Sep. 2013. Web.
4 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265482>
Paddock, C. (2013, September 4). "Chronically ill struggle to put food on the table." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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