Food Insecurity is Directly Associated with the Use of Health Services for Adverse Health Events among Older Adults

Food Insecurity is Directly Associated with the Use of Health Services for Adverse Health Events among Older Adults

Published: Dec 10, 2020
Publisher: The Journal of Nutrition, vol. 150, issue 12
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Authors

Ariella Kahn-Lang Spitzer

Background

In 2018, 14.3 million US households experienced food insecurity, which has been linked to negative health outcomes such as depression and anxiety, diabetes, and hypertension. This connection is particularly important for older adults, who are at greater risk than younger adults for developing certain health conditions.

Objective

We estimated the association between food insecurity and the use of health services for adverse health events over a 12-mo observation period following survey interview for a nationally representative group of older adults participating in the congregate meal (CM) and home-delivered meal (HDM) programs.

Methods

We analyzed data from the Nutrition Services Program (NSP) Outcomes Survey matched to Medicare claims and enrollment data in 2015–2016 for a nationally representative sample of 626 CM or HDM recipients ages 67 y and older. We used logistic regression analysis controlling for demographic characteristics, prior health events, and geography to estimate the association between food insecurity and use of health services, including emergency department visits, inpatient stays, skilled nursing facility stays, and home healthcare episodes. We used ordinary least squares regression analysis to estimate the association between food insecurity and Medicare spending.

Results

Food insecurity was associated with an average increased likelihood of using health services for adverse health events of 16% (95% CI: 1%, 32%) for HDM participants. Food insecurity was associated with an average increased likelihood of emergency department visits of 24% (95% CI: 6%, 41%) for CM participants and 20% (95% CI: 5%, 36%) for HDM participants. There was no observed increase in likelihood of using the other health services. Food-insecure participants were less likely to have a skilled nursing facility stay.

Conclusions

Food insecurity is associated with an increased likelihood of use of health services for adverse health events in older adult participants in meal service programs.

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