People with limited access to food much more likely to die early

Food and water are the essential needs of the body to survive. The body requires adequate amounts of vitamins and nutrients to function properly. People with limited access to food are 10 to 37 percent more likely to have a premature death, according to a new study.

The study, which was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), reveals that adults with food insecurity, which is defined as the inadequate access to food because of financial problems, are at an increased risk of premature death from any cause other than cancer, than those who receive the adequate amount of food regularly.

Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock
Image Credit: YAKOBCHUK VIACHESLAV / Shutterstock

"Among adults who died prematurely, those experiencing severe food insecurity died at age 9 years earlier than their food-secure counterparts," Dr. Fei Men, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Professor Valerie Tarasuk at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

To land to their findings, the team of researchers studied data from the Canadian Community Health Survey between 2005 and 2017 and involved more than 500,000 adults in Canada. They divided the participants into four categories – severely food insecure, moderately food insecure, marginally food insecure, and food secure.

After the duration of the study, the researchers found that more than 25,000 people had died earlier than the others, with those who were severely food insecure dying about 9 years younger than those who were food-secure. Those who were severely insecure had died at an average age of 59.5 years old, compared to 68.9 years old on average for food-secure individuals.

At present, the life expectancy in Canada in 2014 was 82 years old. The deaths that occurred before the average lifespan are considered premature death.

Other findings show that those who were severely food-insecure had a higher chance of dying from infectious-parasitic diseases, unintentional injuries, and even suicides, than those who had no food insecurity.

Previous studies have shown how inadequate food has been tied to an early death. In a similar study in the United States, a team of researchers at the University of Illinois, food insecurity leads to higher mortality risk. The team revealed that household food insecurity is strongly tied to mortality risks in adults. They also discovered that the more severe the food insecurity, the higher the risk of death.

In the present study, the researchers urge the government to address food insecurity to reduce the risk of premature death. The marked relationships of food insecurity and the risk of avoidable deaths show that those with food insecurity benefit less from public health efforts in the prevention and treatment of diseases than their food-secure counterparts. It’s important to address food security first, to promote optimum physical and mental health for all the residents across the country.

If food insecurity happens in a first world country, it is more prevalent in developing countries and third-world countries, where access to adequate food and water is still a huge problem. It’s vital for agencies, governments, and institutions to help address hunger and lack of food for people worldwide.

Food security is linked with a broad range of negative health outcomes and higher healthcare costs. Efforts to decrease food insecurity should be incorporated into public health initiatives in the aim to reduce mortality risk and prevent premature death.

“The markedly higher mortality hazard of severe food insecurity highlights the importance of policy interventions that protect households from extreme deprivation. In Canada, policies that improve the material resources of low-income households have been shown to strengthen food security and health," Dr. Men explained.

Journal reference:

Association between household food insecurity and mortality in Canada: a population-based retrospective cohort study Fei Men, Craig Gundersen, Marcelo L. Urquia and Valerie Tarasuk CMAJ January 20, 2020 192 (3) E53-E60; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1503/cmaj.190385

Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

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Angela Betsaida B. Laguipo

Angela is a nurse by profession and a writer by heart. She graduated with honors (Cum Laude) for her Bachelor of Nursing degree at the University of Baguio, Philippines. She is currently completing her Master's Degree where she specialized in Maternal and Child Nursing and worked as a clinical instructor and educator in the School of Nursing at the University of Baguio.

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