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J Nutr. 2003 Jan;133(1):120-6.

Household food insufficiency is associated with poorer health.

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Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E2.


The purposes of this study were to estimate the prevalence of household food insufficiency in Canada, to identify sociodemographic characteristics of households most likely to report food insufficiency and to examine the relationship between food insufficiency and physical, mental and social health. These objectives were achieved through an analysis of data from the 1996/1997 National Population Health Survey. An estimated 4% of Canadians, 1.1 million people, were found to be living in food-insufficient households. Single-parent families, households reporting their major source of income as welfare, unemployment insurance or workers' compensation, those who did not own their own homes and households in Western Canada were more likely to report food insufficiency. The likelihood of reporting food insufficiency increased dramatically as income adequacy deteriorated. Individuals from food-insufficient households had significantly higher odds of reporting poor/fair health, of having poor functional health, restricted activity and multiple chronic conditions, of suffering from major depression and distress, and of having poor social support. Individuals in food-insufficient households were also more likely to report heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and food allergies. Men in food-insufficient households were less likely to be overweight; after adjusting for potentially confounding variables, no other associations were found between food insufficiency and body mass index. These findings suggest that food insufficiency is one dimension of a more pervasive vulnerability to a range of physical, mental and social health problems among households struggling with economic constraints.

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