Adverse Childhood Experiences and Food Insecurity in Adulthood: Evidence From the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health

J Adolesc Health. 2020 Aug;67(2):218-224. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.02.002. Epub 2020 Apr 5.


Purpose: Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are associated with food insecurity in childhood and adolescence. A growing body of research also finds ACEs are associated with deleterious health outcomes in adulthood. However, research has not investigated whether ACEs have consequences for food insecurity among young adults. The present study examines the association between individual and cumulative ACE exposure and food insecurity among young adults. Furthermore, we assess whether income, physical disability, depressive symptoms, and substance use reduces the magnitude of this association.

Methods: Data are from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 12,288). Multivariate logistic regression was used to analyze the association between ACEs and food insecurity. The Karlson-Holm-Breen method was used to test for confounding effects.

Results: An accumulation of ACEs is associated with a higher odds of experiencing food insecurity. After adjusting for baseline control variables, being exposed to four or more ACEs was associated with a 3.4-fold increase in the odds of food insecurity in young adulthood relative to being exposed to no ACEs. Depressive symptoms, income, and drug use were found to partially reduce the magnitude of this association.

Conclusions: ACEs carry consequences for well-being and serve as an antecedent to food insecurity in young adulthood. Developing interventions such as expanding access to nutrition assistance programs for ACE-exposed populations may yield benefits for alleviating food insecurity and promoting greater health equity.

Keywords: Adverse childhood experiences; Food insecurity; Health; Young adulthood.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Food Insecurity
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders*
  • Young Adult