IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this article

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


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


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Heflin, Colleen M. & Siefert, Kristine & Williams, David R., 2005. "Food insufficiency and women's mental health: Findings from a 3-year panel of welfare recipients," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 61(9), pages 1971-1982, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:9:p:1971-1982

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: Full text for ScienceDirect subscribers only

    As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to search for a different version of it.

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. repec:aph:ajpbhl:2003:93:2:200-208_6 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:aph:ajpbhl:10.2105/ajph.87.12.1921_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Dewa, Carolyn S. & Lin, Elizabeth, 2000. "Chronic physical illness, psychiatric disorder and disability in the workplace," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 51(1), pages 41-50, July.
    4. Marcotte, Dave E. & Wilcox-Gök, Virginia, 2001. "Estimating the employment and earnings costs of mental illness: recent developments in the United States," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 21-27, July.
    5. repec:aph:ajpbhl:1997:87:12:1956-1961_4 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Denton, Margaret & Walters, Vivienne, 1999. "Gender differences in structural and behavioral determinants of health: an analysis of the social production of health," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 48(9), pages 1221-1235, May.
    7. repec:mpr:mprres:2415 is not listed on IDEAS
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. repec:kap:reveho:v:16:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11150-016-9335-z is not listed on IDEAS
    2. 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..
    3. 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.
    4. Noonan, Kelly & Corman, Hope & Reichman, Nancy E., 2016. "Effects of maternal depression on family food insecurity," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 201-215.
    5. Cadario, Romain, 2016. "The impact of health claims and food deprivation levels on health risk perceptions of fast-food restaurants," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 149(C), pages 130-134.
    6. 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.
    7. repec:pri:crcwel:wp06-04-ff is not listed on IDEAS
    8. 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.
    9. Maes, Kenneth C. & Hadley, Craig & Tesfaye, Fikru & Shifferaw, Selamawit, 2010. "Food insecurity and mental health: Surprising trends among community health volunteers in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the 2008 food crisis," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 70(9), pages 1450-1457, May.
    10. Robert Gillanders, 2016. "Corruption and anxiety in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 17(1), pages 47-69, February.
    11. Singer, Merrill C. & Erickson, Pamela I. & Badiane, Louise & Diaz, Rosemary & Ortiz, Dugeidy & Abraham, Traci & Nicolaysen, Anna Marie, 2006. "Syndemics, sex and the city: Understanding sexually transmitted diseases in social and cultural context," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 63(8), pages 2010-2021, October.
    12. Carter, Kristie N. & Kruse, Kerri & Blakely, Tony & Collings, Sunny, 2011. "The association of food security with psychological distress in New Zealand and any gender differences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 72(9), pages 1463-1471, May.
    13. 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.
    14. Tsai, Alexander C. & Tomlinson, Mark & Comulada, W. Scott & Rotheram-Borus, Mary Jane, 2016. "Food insufficiency, depression, and the modifying role of social support: Evidence from a population-based, prospective cohort of pregnant women in peri-urban South Africa," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 151(C), pages 69-77.
    15. Zekeri, Andrew A. & Diabate, Youssouf, 2014. "Food Insecurity And Psychological Well-Being Among Women Living With Hiv/Aids On Antiretroviral Therapy In The Alabama Black Belt," Professional Agricultural Workers Journal (PAWJ), Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-9.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:61:y:2005:i:9:p:1971-1982. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Dana Niculescu). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.