Geographic and socio-demographic predictors of household food insecurity in Canada, 2011-12

BMC Public Health. 2019 Jan 3;19(1):12. doi: 10.1186/s12889-018-6344-2.


Background: Household food insecurity is a potent social determinant of health and health care costs in Canada, but understanding of the social and economic conditions that underlie households' vulnerability to food insecurity is limited.

Methods: Data from the 2011-12 Canadian Community Health Survey were used to determine predictors of household food insecurity among a nationally-representative sample of 120,909 households. Household food insecurity over the past 12 months was assessed using the 18-item Household Food Security Survey Module. Households were classified as food secure or marginally, moderately, or severely food insecure based on the number of affirmative responses. Multivariable binary and multinomial logistic regression analyses were used to determine geographic and socio-demographic predictors of presence and severity of household food insecurity.

Results: The prevalence of household food insecurity ranged from 11.8% in Ontario to 41.0% in Nunavut. After adjusting for socio-demographic factors, households' odds of food insecurity were lower in Quebec and higher in the Maritimes, territories, and Alberta, compared to Ontario. The adjusted odds of food insecurity were also higher among households reliant on social assistance, Employment Insurance or workers' compensation, those without a university degree, those with children under 18, unattached individuals, renters, and those with an Aboriginal respondent. Higher income, immigration, and reliance on seniors' income sources were protective against food insecurity. Living in Nunavut and relying on social assistance were the strongest predictors of severe food insecurity, but severity was also associated with income, education, household composition, Aboriginal status, immigration status, and place of residence. The relation between income and food insecurity status was graded, with every $1000 increase in income associated with 2% lower odds of marginal food insecurity, 4% lower odds of moderate food insecurity, and 5% lower odds of severe food insecurity.

Conclusions: The probability of household food insecurity in Canada and the severity of the experience depends on a household's province or territory of residence, income, main source of income, housing tenure, education, Aboriginal status, and household structure. Our findings highlight the intersection of household food insecurity with public policy decisions in Canada and the disproportionate burden of food insecurity among Indigenous peoples.

Keywords: Canada; Household food insecurity; Income; Indigenous peoples; Social assistance.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Canada
  • Child
  • Family Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Food Supply / statistics & numerical data*
  • Geography
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires