MINNEAPOLIS — A University of Minnesota School of Public Health study shows that nearly one in four people transitioning from adolescence to adulthood experience food insecurity.
The study was done prior to the economic disruption from COVID-19, and researchers say food insecurity has likely worsened since.
Researchers surveyed 1,568 young people in 2009-2010 and checked in with them again as adults in 2017-2018.
Participants in the survey were students from 20 schools in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area.
In addition to finding that nearly one in four young people experience food insecurity, the study also found:
- Food insecurity was linked to poorer diet quality (e.g., less vegetables and whole grains, more sugar-sweetened drinks and added sugars), lower home availability of healthy foods, skipping breakfast, frequently eating at fast-food restaurants, binge eating, binge drinking and substance use;
- Vulnerable groups that may benefit from targeted food insecurity interventions include emerging adults living with their own child(ren), persons in households receiving public assistance, and those who are not presently students but have no postsecondary degree/certificate;
- Several health risk factors (e.g., binge drinking) co-occurred with food insecurity, suggesting that programs addressing emerging adult food insecurity may need to be coordinated with other health service interventions;
- There was no evidence that adolescent food insecurity leads to participating in health risk behaviors in emerging adulthood; however, young people who experience adolescent food insecurity may be more likely to also experience food insecurity in emerging adulthood.
“Our results add to consistent research findings that the transition from adolescence to adulthood is a period of vulnerability for food insecurity,” said study lead Nicole Larson, a nutritional epidemiologist in the School of Public Health. “Risky health behaviors might be linked to food insecurity due to the psychological and emotional stresses associated with experiencing disrupted access to adequate food or chronic stresses of living in poverty."