Association of moderate and severe food insecurity with suicidal ideation in adults: national survey data from three Canadian provinces

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2015 Jun;50(6):963-72. doi: 10.1007/s00127-015-1018-1. Epub 2015 Feb 5.


Purpose: Although the important public health issues of food insecurity and suicide may be interconnected, they are rarely studied. Using data from a national survey, we examined whether household food insecurity was associated with suicidal ideation after adjusting for relevant covariates.

Methods: We examined cross-sectional data from three Canadian provinces (n = 5,270) that were derived from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey and included adults (18+ years). Suicidal ideation was based on affirmative response to the question of whether or not the participant had seriously considered committing suicide in the previous 12 months. The Household Food Security Survey Module provided measures of moderate (indication of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed) and severe (indication of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns) food insecurity status. Logistic regression determined associations between food insecurity and suicidal ideation with adjustment for demographics, body mass index, and presence of a mood disorder.

Results: There were differences in the proportion experiencing suicide ideation according to moderate (14.7 vs 10.0 % without suicide ideation) and severe (16.4 vs 7.1 % without suicide ideation) food security (p < 0.001). With covariate adjustment, suicidal ideation was significantly associated with moderate (adjusted OR = 1.32, 95 % CI 1.06-1.64) and severe (adjusted OR = 1.77, 95 % CI 1.42-2.23) food insecurity.

Conclusions: The findings of a robust association between food insecurity and suicidal ideation suggest that interventions targeted at food security may reduce suicide-related morbidity and mortality. Longitudinal investigations that examine various dimensions of food insecurity will advance understanding of etiological pathways involved in food insecurity and suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Body Mass Index
  • Canada
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mood Disorders / diagnosis
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult