Association of Food Insecurity and Food Addiction Symptoms: A Secondary Analysis of Two Samples of Low-Income Female Adults

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2022 Oct;122(10):1885-1892. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2022.04.015. Epub 2022 May 20.


Background: Household food insecurity persists in the United States and has important implications for health and well-being. Food insecurity in female-identified caregivers is particularly concerning, given its association with their mental health and adverse health outcomes for their children. Food insecurity is associated with disordered eating but, to our knowledge, no prior studies have examined an association between food insecurity and food addiction.

Objective: Our aim was to examine whether food insecurity is associated with higher food addiction symptom endorsement in low-income female adults.

Design: Secondary analysis of baseline data from a quasi-experimental study of a mindfulness-based intervention on gestational weight gain among low-income pregnant individuals and an observational study of low-income families.

Participants/setting: Participants in study 1 (n = 208) were English-speaking, low-income pregnant individuals with overweight or obesity, recruited in California from 2011 to 2013. Participants in study 2 (n = 181) were English-speaking, low-income female caregivers for children aged 8 through 10 years, recruited in Michigan from 2018 to 2019. Both studies recruited participants from community health clinics, social service agencies, and online advertisements.

Main outcome measures: The primary outcome measure was food addiction symptoms, assessed by the Yale Food Addiction Scale.

Statistical analysis: Multivariate Poisson regression was used to examine the association between household food insecurity and food addiction symptoms in each sample, adjusted for sociodemographic characteristics.

Results: In study 1, pregnant individuals in food-insecure households reported 21% higher food addiction symptoms than pregnant individuals in food-secure households (incidence rate ratio 1.21; 95% CI 1.00 to 1.47; P = .047). In study 2, caregivers in food-insecure households had 56% higher food addiction symptoms than caregivers in food-secure households (incidence rate ratio 1.56; 95% CI 1.01 to 2.40; P = .045).

Conclusions: These findings provide preliminary support for a relationship between household food insecurity and food addiction. Future research should examine potential mechanisms and whether interventions to reduce food insecurity lower risk of food addiction.

Keywords: Food addiction; Food insecurity; Low-income; Maternal health.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Female
  • Food Addiction* / epidemiology
  • Food Insecurity
  • Food Supply*
  • Humans
  • Obesity
  • Poverty
  • Pregnancy
  • United States / epidemiology