UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Food Insecurity and Obesity: Exploring the Role of Social Support

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Medicine, Division of Preventive and Behavioral Medicine; Department of Quantitative Health Sciences

Publication Date


Document Type



Dietetics and Clinical Nutrition | Food Security | Nutrition | Women's Health


BACKGROUND: Women are disproportionately affected by both obesity and food insecurity. Food insecurity occurs when there is limited ability to acquire adequate foods. It is unknown whether social support can reduce the effect of food insecurity on increased obesity. This study seeks to determine whether social support modifies the relationship between food insecurity and obesity.

METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional study in a nationally representative sample of 4672 women aged > /=40 years using National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (2003-2008). Individual food insecurity was assessed based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture 18-item validated household food security scale. Women were categorized as fully food secure (0 affirmative responses) or food insecure (1-10 affirmative responses). Obesity was defined as body mass index > /=30 kg/m(2). Outcomes were analyzed by multivariable logistic regression.

RESULTS: Fourteen percent were food insecure. Women with food insecurity had 1.4 the odds of obesity as those who were fully food secure, adjusting for race/ethnicity and health status (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.22-1.62). Food-insecure women were 80% less likely to report strong social support than women who were fully food secure (95% CI 0.11-0.36). Social support as measured in this study did not modify the association between food insecurity and obesity.

CONCLUSIONS: Women reporting food insecurity reported lower levels of social support and were more likely to experience obesity. Interventions to reduce obesity in women who are food insecure must consider the limited resources available to these women.


BMI, NHANES, food insecurity, obesity, social support

DOI of Published Version



J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2017 Nov 28. doi: 10.1089/jwh.2017.6454. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of women's health (2002)

PubMed ID