Going Hungry Can Mean Shorter Lifespan, Even in a Wealthy Country

Going Hungry Can Mean Shorter Lifespan, Even in a Wealthy Country

"Food insecurity" - not having enough money to afford sufficient food - increases the risk of premature death, new research suggests.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 510,000 adults in Canada between 2005 and 2017. Over the study period, nearly 25,500 people died prematurely. The average life expectancy in Canada between 2008 and 2014 was 82, so deaths at or before that age were considered premature.

The study found that, compared with adults who had access to enough food, those with food insecurity were 10% to 37% more likely to die early from any cause other than cancer.

Rates of premature death from infectious-parasitic diseases, unintentional injuries and suicides were more than twice as high among those with severe food insecurity compared with others, according to the report.

Fei Men, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto, led the study, which was published Jan. 20 in the CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Among the adults who died prematurely, those with severe food insecurity died an average of nine years younger than those who were food secure (59.5 years old versus 68.9 years old), the findings showed.

"The significant correlations of all levels of food insecurity with potentially avoidable deaths imply that food-insecure adults benefit less from public health efforts to prevent and treat diseases and injuries than their food-secure counterparts," the authors concluded.

Policies to reduce food insecurity could lower the number of premature deaths, the researchers suggested in a journal news release.

"In Canada, policies that improve the material resources of low-income households have been shown to strengthen food security and health," Men said.

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