Objective: We investigated factors accounting for the consistently higher levels of household food insecurity reported by women in Canada.
Design: Two cycles of the Canadian Community Health Survey for the years 2005/2006 and 2007/2008 were pooled to examine the association between household food insecurity, measured using the Household Food Security Survey Module and other metrics, and respondent sex. We stratified households as married/cohabiting (in which case, the household respondent was chosen randomly) or non-married (single/widowed/separated/divorced) and adjusted for differences in household characteristics, including the presence of children.
Subjects: Analysis was restricted to households dependent on employment/self-employment and whose reported annual household income was below $CAN 100,000. Exclusions included respondents less than 18 years of age, any welfare receipt, and missing food insecurity, marital status, income source and amount, or household composition data.
Results: For non-married households, increased food insecurity in female- v. male-led households was accounted for by significant differences in household socio-economic characteristics. In contrast, in married/cohabiting households with or without children, higher food insecurity rates were reported when the respondent was female and neither respondent characteristics nor socio-economic factors accounted for the differences.
Conclusions: Higher rates of food insecurity in non-married households in Canada are largely attributable to women's socio-economic disadvantage. In married households, women appear to report higher levels of food insecurity than men. These findings suggest a possible bias in the measurement of population-level household food insecurity in surveys that do not account for the sex of the respondent in married/cohabiting households.