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Food insufficiency and women's mental health: Findings from a 3-year panel of welfare recipients

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  • Heflin, Colleen M.
  • Siefert, Kristine
  • Williams, David R.
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    Abstract

    Household food insufficiency is a significant problem in the United States, and has been associated with poor outcomes on mental health indicators among low-income women. However, it is difficult to disentangle the mental health consequences of household food insufficiency from poverty and other shared risk factors. Drawing on theories of the social production of health and disease, research evidence linking food insufficiency with poor mental health, and high rates of food insufficiency among welfare recipients, we examined whether a change in household food insufficiency is associated with a change in women's self-reported mental health in a sample of current and recent welfare recipients over a 3-year period of time, controlling for common risk factors. Data were obtained from a prospective survey of women who were welfare recipients in an urban Michigan county in February 1997 (n=753). We estimated fixed effect models for changes in mental health status that make use of information on household food insufficiency gathered in the fall of 1997, 1998, and 1999. The relationship between household food insufficiency and respondents' meeting the diagnostic screening criteria for major depression remained highly significant even when controlling for factors known to confer increased risk of depression and time invariant unobserved heterogeneity. These findings add to growing evidence that household food insufficiency has potentially serious consequences for low-income women's mental health. If confirmed by further research, they suggest that the public health burden of depression in welfare recipients and other low-income women could be reduced by policy-level interventions to reduce their exposure to household food insufficiency.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/B6VBF-4G94HY0-5/2/3457a6f66fe4c8d4c877b5ef07859f12
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 61 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 9 (November)
    Pages: 1971-1982

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:9:p:1971-1982

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    Related research

    Keywords: Food insufficiency Food security Low-income women Mental health Depression USA;

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    Cited by:
    1. Hadley, Craig & Linzer, Drew A. & Belachew, Tefera & Mariam, Abebe Gebre & Tessema, Fasil & Lindstrom, David, 2011. "Household capacities, vulnerabilities and food insecurity: Shifts in food insecurity in urban and rural Ethiopia during the 2008 food crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 73(10), pages 1534-1542.
    2. Eamon, Mary Keegan & Wu, Chi-Fang, 2011. "Effects of unemployment and underemployment on material hardship in single-mother families," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 233-241, February.
    3. Tsai, Alexander C. & Bangsberg, David R. & Frongillo, Edward A. & Hunt, Peter W. & Muzoora, Conrad & Martin, Jeffrey N. & Weiser, Sheri D., 2012. "Food insecurity, depression and the modifying role of social support among people living with HIV/AIDS in rural Uganda," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(12), pages 2012-2019.
    4. Jean Knab & Sara McLanahan & Irv Garfinkel, 2007. "The Effects of Welfare and Child Support Policies on Maternal Health and Wellbeing," Working Papers 931, Princeton University, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Center for Research on Child Wellbeing..
    5. Nanama, Siméon & Frongillo, Edward A., 2012. "Altered social cohesion and adverse psychological experiences with chronic food insecurity in the non-market economy and complex households of Burkina Faso," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 74(3), pages 444-451.

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