Methods: The data are from in person interviews, conducted in English or Spanish, with 216 of the 300 tenants age 55-plus living in a large subsidized housing development in a predominately minority neighborhood of a Northeastern city (a 72% response rate). Approximately 50% of the participants identified as Black and 45% identified as Latino. Food insecurity was measured using the 6-item USDA Household Food Security Survey, loneliness was assessed with the Revised UCLA Loneliness Scale-8 Item Short Form (RULS-8) and sense of belonging was measured with the three-item community membership subscale of the Sense of Community Index. Multivariate logistic regression models were used to determine if the social risk factors were related to food insecurity even after other factors were controlled.
Results: Food insecurity was prevalent in the studied population; 40% for residents ages 55-69 and 20% for those ages 70-plus. Additionally, 34% expressed a strong sense of loneliness, and 40% reported little sense of community belonging. Food insecurity was positively correlated with loneliness. Importantly, multivariate logistic regression models revealed that loneliness was significantly related to food insecurity (increased the odds ratio) even after other factors were controlled.
Conclusions and Implications: The findings underscore that food insecurity and loneliness are serious issues among older adults living in subsidized housing developments. Furthermore, the results revealed that food insecurity involves many underlying determinants, including psychosocial factors. For a significant number of older subsidized housing residents hunger and loneliness co-exist; thus, future interventions might adopt the twin objectives of food security and social integration.