Inadequate food access linked to premature mortality, says study

In this newly published study, the researchers said they categorised people as food secure, or marginally, moderately or severely food insecure

Researchers have found that people with inadequate access to food due to financial constraints are 10 to 37 per cent more likely to die prematurely from any cause other than cancer, compared to food-secure people.

"Among adults who died prematurely, those experiencing severe food insecurity died at an age nine years earlier than their food-secure counterparts," said study lead author Fei Men from the University of Toronto in Canada.

For the study, published in the journal CMAJ, researchers looked at data from the Canadian Community Health Survey 2005-2017 on more than half a million adults in Canada.

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They categorised people as food secure, or marginally, moderately or severely food insecure.

By the end of the study period, 25 460 people had died prematurely, with people who were severely food insecure dying nine years younger than their food-secure counterparts (59.5 years old versus 68.9 years).

Previous studies have examined the relation between inadequate food and death, although none looked at causes of death.

The average life expectancy in Canada in 2008-2014 was 82 years; deaths at or before that age were considered premature in this study.

Severely food-insecure adults were more likely to die prematurely than their food-secure counterparts for all causes except cancers, the study said.

Premature death by infectious-parasitic diseases, unintentional injuries and suicides was more than twice as likely for those experiencing severe versus no food insecurity, it added.

"The significant correlations of all levels of food insecurity with potentially avoidable deaths imply that food-insecure adults benefit less from public health efforts to prevent and treat diseases and injuries than their food-secure counterparts," the researchers said.