Food Insecurity and Psychosocial Well-Being of Individuals in Rural Uganda
Methods: This study used baseline data (N= 450) from AssetsAfrica, a demonstration and research initiative designed to test asset-building innovations in rural Uganda. Food insecurity referred to the frequency of consuming a nutritious diet including milk, eggs, fish, and chicken. Individuals were asked how frequent they consumed various types of food during the past week and past month. Outcome variables included future expectations of household economic and living conditions, outlook in life (defined as an individual’s belief of achieving life plans), and self-rated perception of health status. Multivariate linear and logistic regressions were conducted to examine correlates of food insecurity and the association between food insecurity and psychosocial outcomes.
Results: Being older, owning less assets, and negative perception of financial status were associated with food insecurity during the past week and month. Households that reported owning more livestock and household possessions were less likely to experience food insecurity. In addition, lack of social support was associated with food insecurity during the past week, whereas being employed informally and poor dwelling conditions were associated with food insecurity during the past month. With regard to psychosocial outcomes, food security during the past week was positively associated with outlook in life and future expectations of household conditions (p < .05). In addition, food security during the past month was positively associated with future expectations of household conditions and self-rated health perception (p < .05). The positive relationship between food security during the past week and perceived health status, as well as food security during the past month and outlook in life demonstrated statistical trend (p< .10).
Conclusions and Implications: Results show that indicators of poverty and low socioeconomic status predict food insecurity. Food-insecure individuals eat fewer meals and less nutritious diet. Further, food security may have benefits beyond the immediate nutrition and health-related effects. Food-insecure individuals and households are more likely to experience poor psychosocial outcomes. Poor psychosocial outcomes, in turn, may contribute to chronic food insecurity by depriving individuals of motivation and energy to produce food or earn income to purchase food. Programs that promote stable and sustainable access to food are critical to alleviate deleterious effects of food insecurity. Programs that provide pathways to long-term food security may also reduce chronic anxiety about food supply, which in turn, may improve individual’s psychosocial outcomes.