Association of Household Food Insecurity with the Mental and Physical Health of Low-Income Urban Ecuadorian Women with Children

M. Margaret Weigel, Rodrigo X. Armijos, Marcia Racines, William Cevallos, Nancy P. Castro

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Abstract

Chronic physical and mental health conditions account for a rising proportion of morbidity, mortality, and disability in the Americas region. Household food insecurity (HFI) has been linked to chronic disease in US and Canadian women but it is uncertain if the same is true for low- and middle-income Latin American countries in epidemiologic transition. We conducted a survey to investigate the association of HFI with the physical and mental health of 794 women with children living in low-income Quito, Ecuador, neighborhoods. Data were collected on HFI and health indicators including self-reported health (SF-1), mental health (MHI-5), blood pressure, and self-reported mental and physical health complaints. Fasting blood glucose and lipids were measured in a subsample. The multivariate analyses revealed that HFI was associated with poorer self-rated health, low MHI-5 scores, and mental health complaints including stress, depression, and ethnospecific illnesses. It was also associated with chest tightness/discomfort/pain, dental disease, and gastrointestinal illness but not other conditions. The findings suggest that improving food security in low-income households may help reduce the burden of mental distress in women with children. The hypothesized link with diabetes and hypertension may become more apparent as Ecuador moves further along in the epidemiologic transition.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5256084
JournalJournal of Environmental and Public Health
Volume2016
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

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