Rx Nutrition Resource Center

Rx Nutrition Resource Center

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
January 13, 2021
2 min read

Food insecurity among older adults doubled in recent years

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.
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Food insecurity among older adults in the United States doubled from 2007 to 2016, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

“Our results provide further evidence that food insecurity is a serious health concern among older adults,” Cindy Leung, ScD, MPH, an assistant professor in the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said in a press release.

Food insecurity in older adults from 2007 to 2016
Reference: Leung CW, et al. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2021;doi:10.1111/jgs.16971.

Leung and colleagues conducted a cross-sectional analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys from 2007 to 2016, which includes a nationally representative sample of the population of the United States.

Among participants, household food security was assessed using the U.S. Household Food Security Survey Module, which included questions about experiences or behaviors of having insufficient resources to obtain food in the past year.

The researchers defined marginal food security as having one to two responses indicating that people in the household have been concerned about running out of food, and food insecurity as three or more responses indicating that people in the household reduced the quality, variety or quantity of their food due to insufficient resources.

The researchers used 24-hour dietary recalls that were reported during interviews to assess diet quality based on the Healthy Eating Index, Alternate Healthy Eating Index and the Mediterranean Diet score.

A total of 5,097 adults aged 60 years and older were included in the study.

Leung and colleagues found that food insecurity among all older adults rose from 5.5% in 2007-2008 to 12.4% in 2015-2016. Marginal food security among all older adults rose from 4.8% to 7.5% during the same period.

Among older adults with household incomes 300% or less than the federal poverty level, the researchers found that food insecurity increased from 8.5% in 2007-2008 to 20.9% in 2015-2016. The researchers also found that marginal food security increased from 7.1% to 12.2% during that time.

They determined that the increase in food insecurity was most pronounced in those adults with lower household income.

Using linear regression models, the researchers determined that food insecurity was associated with lower scores on the Health Eating Index ( = 1.90; 95% CI, 3.70 to 0.09), the Alternate Health Eating Index ( = 1.47; 95% CI, 2.51 to 0.44), and the Mediterranean Diet Score ( = 0.54; 95% CI, 1.06 to 0.01) after multivariable adjustments.

According to the researchers, the observed associations between food insecurity and lower diet quality scores may be a potential reason for aging-related conditions associated with food insecurity such as functional limitations, chronic disease risks and cognitive impairment.

“Continued investment in public health programs and policies are needed to simultaneously improve food security and nutritional intake for older Americans, all of which has become more urgent during the current COVID-19 pandemic,” Leung said in the press release.