A new study finds that people who experience food insecurity have a lower quality of life and less psychological well-being.
Researchers at the University of Copenhagen say this is the first study on food insecurity in Denmark. Using measurement methods used in the United States, where authorities regularly monitor the prevalence of food insecurity, the new study found that an estimated 8 percent of Danish households cannot afford enough food.
That’s the equivalent of more than 200,000 households, the researchers noted.
Researchers said the exact extent of food insecurity in Denmark is uncertain. This is because the study — which included 1,877 people — is based on a combination of Internet responses and telephone interviews, where each survey method yielded different results. While the incidence of food insecurity was 4 percent among telephone respondents, the figure was 10 percent among online respondents.
“We believe that the explanation for the differences is that people are more likely to report difficult circumstances when there isn’t a live person at the other end of the line, as is the case with telephone interviews,” said Associate Professor Thomas Bøker Lund of the Department of Food and Resource Economics, who worked on the study.
“The precise extent of food insecurity in Denmark should be explored further,” said Professor Lotte Holm of the Department of Food and Resource Economics, who conducted the study with former Associate Professor Annemette Ljungdalh Nielsen.
“But from our study and data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, we can say that at least 4 to 5 percent of Danish households experience insecure access to food, the equivalent of approximately 100,000 households. Nevertheless, this is a striking number in a welfare state like Denmark.”
Not surprisingly, food insecurity is more prominent among low income and single parent families. According to the study’s findings, it affects one in four single parent households and between 31 percent and 48 percent of Danish households that receive social assistance, disability pensions, or unemployment benefits.
The researchers found that people try to adapt their food consumption in a variety of ways. Among other things, they stretch food supplies and stock up on cheap and filling ingredients, lower the quality of their food purchases, reduce or stop inviting guests, borrow money for food, or become dependent on food acquired from family and friends.
The more financially pressed households become, the more radical these adjustments are, and the stronger the correlation with unhealthy diet, low psychological well-being, and quality of life, according to the study’s findings.
“The results point to the fact that we cannot assume that everyone in today’s Denmark has the ability to secure an adequate and nutritious diet,” said Holm. “We cannot determine whether or not this is a new development. We do not know what the situation was like 10 years ago because there are no previous measurements of Danes’ access to food.”
“This study demands follow up,” she added. “Our data were collected in 2015. Since then, the social assistance ceiling has been reintroduced and various social services have been scaled back. Therefore, things may have turned for the worse.
“On the other hand, more people have become employed in recent years, which may have had a positive effect.”
Source: University of Copenhagen