In a new study, researchers found that food insecurity — lacking access to food or going hungry due to poverty or other challenges — is a major problem for many older adults in the U.S.
The findings, published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, reveal that more than 25 percent of people with both Medicaid and Medicare experience food insecurity. In 2015, 8.3 percent of American households with a family member aged 65 or older and 9.2 percent of all older adults experienced food insecurity.
For the study, researchers from the Institute for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente, Colorado, analyzed data from a health survey that was completed by more than 50,000 older adults between 2012 and 2015. The survey, which included a question about food insecurity, was part of a free Annual Wellness Visit for Medicare members in Kaiser Permanente Colorado.
Of the more than 50,000 survey respondents who answered the question about food insecurity, more than 2,950 people (almost six percent) said that they did not always have enough money to buy the food they needed.
The study found that food insecurity was most common (6.2 percent) in people between the ages of 75 and 84 and least common (4.8 percent) in those 85-years-old or older.
Food insecurity was more common among the following groups: women, people without a spouse or partner, those who used tobacco or alcohol, and people with health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes or diagnosed depression. It was also more common among people who had been hospitalized, visited an emergency department, or had lived in a nursing home in the year before the survey.
In addition, more than 25 percent of people with both Medicaid (government insurance for people living below the federal poverty line) and Medicare (government insurance for older adults) reported having food insecurity.
Finally, food insecurity was reported by 10 percent or more of people who had the following conditions: fair or poor general health or quality-of-life, oral or dental problems, a poor diet (they ate no fruits or vegetables, or they ate fewer than two meals a day), no one to call for help, and those who have trouble with bathing, eating, dressing, and performing other activities of daily living.
The researchers said ways to identify food insecurity in older adults need to be combined with methods to connect older adults with community-based food resources. When community organizations and health care systems work together, they are better able to help us address these concerns individually and as a society.
Source: American Geriatrics Society