How Food Insecurity Affects Older Adults

Food insecurity, or having difficulty in accessing food due to a lack of money, affected one in seven older adults aged 50 to 80 in the past year, according to new results from the University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.

The findings, which are based on data collected in December 2019, showed an association between household food insecurity and lower self-reported physical and mental health. Older adults who were food insecure were three times more likely to say they were in fair or poor physical health, and nearly five times as likely to say they were in fair or poor mental health.

Older adults with recent experiences of food insecurity were also twice as likely to say their diet was fair or poor, which could have further long-term health implications. A healthy diet plays a vital role in the prevention and management of health conditions, such as diabetes and hypertension.

The poll results indicate a critical need to connect older adults, especially those with health conditions, to food assistance programs, and identify public policies that could improve access to sufficient and nutritious foods. And now, as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates financial and logistical challenges in accessing food, such program and policy initiatives may be more urgently needed than ever.