The long-term health consequences of childhood food insecurity

This study examined the long-term consequences of frequency, timing, and severity of food insecurity exposure in childhood on health and health care utilization in adulthood using nearly 20 years of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics.  The findings provide evidence of the long-lasting health effects of childhood food insecurity.  Young adults who experienced food insecurity as children have higher psychological distress, even when adjusting for childhood socioeconomic status, parent’s health, health during childhood, and food insecurity during adulthood.  More severe and more frequent episodes of childhood food insecurity are related to worse psychological distress during adulthood, but even marginal food security and single episodes of food insecurity appear to be related to worse psychological distress during adulthood.  Very low food security during childhood also appears to be related to worse physical health during adulthood.  Using instrumental variables to adjust for selection into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), this study also finds some evidence that receipt of SNAP during childhood appears to reduce the effects of childhood food insecurity on health during adulthood.



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Angela Fertig