Does social support modify the relationship between food insecurity and poor mental health? Evidence from thirty-nine sub-Saharan African countries

Muzi Na, Meghan Miller, Terri Ballard, Diane C. Mitchell, Yuen Wai Hung, Hugo Melgar-Quinõnez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Objective The present study aimed to determine the relationship among food insecurity, social support and mental well-being in sub-Saharan Africa, a region presenting the highest prevalence of severe food insecurity and a critical scarcity of mental health care.Design Food insecurity was measured using the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES). Social support was assessed using dichotomous indicators of perceived, foreign perceived, received, given, integrative and emotional support. The Negative and Positive Experience Indices (NEI and PEI) were used as indicators of mental well-being. Multilevel mixed-effect linear models were applied to examine the associations between mental well-being and food security status, social support and their interaction, respectively, accounting for random effects at country level and covariates.Participants Nationally representative adults surveyed through Gallup World Poll between 2014 and 2016 in thirty-nine sub-Saharan African countries (n 102 235).Results The prevalence of severe food insecurity was 39 %. The prevalence of social support ranged from 30 to 72 % by type. In the pooled analysis using the adjusted model, food insecurity was dose-responsively associated with increased NEI and decreased PEI. Perceived, integrative and emotional support were associated with lower NEI and higher PEI. The differences in NEI and PEI between people with and without social support were the greatest among the most severely food insecure.Conclusions Both food insecurity and lack of social support constitute sources of vulnerability to poor mental well-being. Social support appears to modify the relationship between food security and mental well-being among those most affected by food insecurity in sub-Saharan Africa.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)874-881
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Volume22
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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