Association of Participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and Psychological Distress
We assessed whether households’ participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was associated with improvements in well-being, as indicated by lower rates of psychological distress.
We used longitudinal data for 3146 households in 30 states, collected between October 2011 and September 2012 for the SNAP Food Security survey, the largest longitudinal national survey of SNAP participants to date. Analyses compared households within days of program entry to the same households approximately 6 months later. We measured psychological distress in the past 30 days on a 6-item Kessler screening scale and used multivariable regression to estimate associations between SNAP participation and psychological distress.
A smaller percentage of household heads exhibited psychological distress after 6 months of participation in SNAP than at baseline (15.3% vs 23.2%; difference = −7.9%). In adjusted models, SNAP participation was associated with a decrease in psychological distress (adjusted relative risk = 0.72; 95% confidence interval = 0.66, 0.78).
Continuing support for federal nutrition programs, such as SNAP, may reduce the public health burden of mental illness, thus improving well-being among vulnerable populations.