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Food Insecurity and Mental Health: A Gendered Issue?

Food Systems and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78635-092-3, eISBN: 978-1-78635-091-6

Publication date: 29 June 2017



Food insecurity and hunger are found to have important adverse mental health effects, and have been of particular interest to epidemiologists and public health scholars. The primary goal of the present study is to expand our understanding of the mental health effects of food insecurity by assessing gender-based disparities among a nationally-representative sample of U.S. adults.


Using data from the combined 2011-2012 and 2013-2014 cycles of The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) (N=11,539), we estimated multiple ordinary least squares and binomial models using adult food insecurity measures and self-reported gender as main predictors of depressive symptoms and alcohol use.


Our results demonstrate that food insecurity is associated with depressive symptoms but not alcohol consumption. Additionally, we found an association between food insecurity and increased psychological distress among women relative to men. In contrast, no evidence of a difference in the association between food insecurity and alcohol use was observed across the two genders, indicating that experiences of food insecurity are particularly salient for psychological health among women.

Implications and originality

These findings add to the growing literature that household food insecurity has serious mental health consequences, and extend this work by clarifying ways in which gender accounts for differences in the association between food insecurity and psychological and behavioral outcomes.



Ciciurkaite, G. and Brown, R.L. (2017), "Food Insecurity and Mental Health: A Gendered Issue?", Food Systems and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 18), Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 59-76.



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