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The effect of food insecurity on mental health: Panel evidence from rural Zambia

  • Cole, Steven M.
  • Tembo, Gelson
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    A growing number of studies show support for a positive association between food insecurity and poor mental health in developing countries. Few of these studies, however, explore the relationship statistically employing longitudinal data. This study combines ethnography with randomly sampled household-level panel data (two waves) collected in 2009 to examine the association between food insecurity and mental health in rural Zambia. Mental health was measured using the Self-Reporting Questionnaire and food insecurity was assessed utilizing a modified 7-item scale based on local coping strategies used during food shortages. A multilevel linear regression model was employed with repeated measures nested within individuals (N = 280 observations) living in 81 households nested within 16 villages. Regression results confirm the postulated positive association between poor mental health and food insecurity. Food insecurity during the dry season, the time of year in rural Zambia when many households are typically food secure, had a subsequent greater effect on mental health than food insecurity during the rainy season. The difference in the effect was statistically significant at the five-percent level. In a country where mental health care resources are severely lacking, policy and applied efforts aimed at improving access to key agricultural resources, thereby increasing agricultural output, could potentially produce beneficial mental health outcomes.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277953611004527
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 73 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 7 ()
    Pages: 1071-1079

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:73:y:2011:i:7:p:1071-1079
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    1. Das, Jishnu & Do, Quy-Toan & Friedman, Jed & McKenzie, David & Scott, Kinnon, 2007. "Mental health and poverty in developing countries: Revisiting the relationship," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 467-480, August.
    2. 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.
    3. Patel, Vikram & Araya, Ricardo & de Lima, Mauricio & Ludermir, Ana & Todd, Charles, 1999. "Women, poverty and common mental disorders in four restructuring societies," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 49(11), pages 1461-1471, December.
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    7. Lund, Crick & Breen, Alison & Flisher, Alan J. & Kakuma, Ritsuko & Corrigall, Joanne & Joska, John A. & Swartz, Leslie & Patel, Vikram, 2010. "Poverty and common mental disorders in low and middle income countries: A systematic review," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 71(3), pages 517-528, August.
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