Examining the relationship between food security and perceived health among Memorial University students
Keywords:food supply, food insecurity, hunger, student health services, universities, population health
Objectives: The prevalence of student food insecurity at Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) is relatively high (58.0%) compared to the national population (12.7%). We explored the relationship between food security status, perceived health, and student experience among MUN students.
Methods: Through an online survey of returning MUN students at the St. John’s campus, we assessed food security using Statistics Canada’s Canadian Household Food Security Survey Module (HFSSM), and self-reported physical health, mental health, and stress. We used logistic regression to compare health and stress ratings between students of different food security levels. We thematically coded open-ended responses to describe students’ experiences related to food insecurity.
Results: Among the 967 study eligible students, 39.9% were considered food insecure, 28.2% were moderately food insecure, and 11.7% were severely food insecure. After controlling for significant predictors, students who were moderately or severely food insecure were 1.72 [95% CI:(1.20,2.48)] and 2.81 [95% CI:(1.79,4.42)] times as likely to rate their physical health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ than food secure students, and 1.66 [95% CI:( 1.22,2.27)] and 4.23 [95% CI: (2.71-6.60] times as likely to rate their mental health as ‘fair’ or ‘poor’ than food secure students, respectively.
Conclusion: Food security level experienced by MUN students was closely related to their perceived physical and mental health. As food security level worsened among participants, their self-reported physical and mental health also worsened. Health professionals working with university student populations should screen for food security and consider its relationship to students’ health.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Lisa Blundell, RD, MPH, Maria Mathews, PhD
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