Background — Food insecurity is associated with a wide array of negative health outcomes and higher health care costs but there has been no population-based study of the association of food insecurity and mortality in high-income countries.
Methods — We use cross-sectional population surveys linked to encoded health administrative data. The sample is 90,368 adults, living in Ontario and respondents in the Canadian Community Health Survey (CCHS). The outcome of interest is all-cause mortality at any time after the interview and within four years of the interview. The primary variable of interest is food insecurity status, with individuals classed as “food secure”, “marginally food insecure”, “moderately food insecure”, or “severely food insecure”. We use logistic regression models to determine the association of mortality with food insecurity status, adjusting for other social determinants of health.
Results — Using a full set of covariates, in comparison to food secure individuals, the odds of death at any point after the interview are 1.28 (CI = 1.08, 1.52) for marginally food insecure individuals, 1.49 (CI = 1.29, 1.73) for moderately food insecure individuals, and 2.60 (CI = 2.17, 3.12) for severely food insecure individuals. When mortality within four years of the interview is considered, the odds are, respectively, 1.19 (CI = 0.95, 1.50), 1.65 (CI = 1.37, 1.98), and 2.31 (CI = 1.81, 2.93).
Interpretation — These findings demonstrate that food insecurity is associated with higher mortality rates and these higher rates are especially large for the most severe food insecurity category. Efforts to reduce food insecurity should be incorporated into broader public health initiatives to reduce mortality.
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