Women who suffer from mental, physical or sexual abuse from their partners are more likely to be depressed — which in turn leads to a greater likelihood of food insecurity, according to a new study from the University of Houston Texas Obesity Research Center.
“The bridge between the two issues is depression,” said assistant professor and researcher Daphne Hernandez, Ph.D.
“Our study found that women experiencing intimate partner violence are more likely to be depressed, which impacts their ability to ensure a food-secure household.”
“Food insecurity” is characterized by rationing, portion control and the inability to offer families balanced meals, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Core Food Security Module.
For the study, Hernandez looked at data from nearly 1,700 women involved in a romantic relationship (married or cohabitating with a partner) who also had experienced intimate partner violence (physical, mental and/or sexual).
Hernandez discovered that mothers who suffer from intimate partner violence had 44 percent greater risk of experiencing depression. Furthermore, families in which mothers suffered from depression were twice as likely to experience food insecurity.
“It appears that depression may impact mothers’ motivation to obtain and prepare food due to their decreased appetite, mental and physical fatigue and feelings of being overwhelmed,” she said. “Additionally, the moms’ feelings of helplessness, brought on by the violence they experienced, may challenged them to access the proper support.”
Hernandez researches the effects of family dynamics on nutrition, health and obesity. She notes that few studies have investigated how a mother’s health challenges impact a household’s food security.
The goal of the current study was to understand how the family environment and women’s health impacts the lives of families with young children. She believes the findings may help organizations that help support families in times of crisis.
“What this means is that targeting issues central to women’s health must become a priority in combating food insecurity,” Hernandez said.
“Providing mental health screenings at the time individuals apply for food assistance may help identify women who need interventions to keep them safe, mental healthy and food secure.”
The study, published in the Journal of Women’s Health, may prove valuable to those creating interventions for those populations.
Source: University of Houston