Topical Area: Community and Public Health Nutrition, Aging and Chronic Disease, Obesity
Objectives : Food insecurity is a critical concern for college students. Food insecurity is associated with stress, irregular eating patterns, weight change, and depression, making it a plausible risk factor for disordered eating in college students, who are already at high risk of eating disorders. We explored the relation between food insecurity and screening positive for a possible eating disorder among students attending a large, public Midwestern university.
Data were collected cross-sectionally via an online survey during the Winter 2018 semester. The analytic sample totaled 762 after excluding students with missing data for exposure or outcome. The 10-item U.S. Adult Food Security Survey Module was used to measure food security status, which was classified into four categories: food security, marginal food security, low food security, and very low food security. Participants were screened for the presence of a possible eating disorder using the 5-item SCOFF questionnaire, with a positive screen defined as ≥2 affirmative answers. We used Poisson regression to model the prevalence of SCOFF positive screens and item-level affirmative responses by food security categories, adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, family income, and first-generation status.
Results : A higher prevalence of positive SCOFF screens was observed among students with marginal food security (PR 1.76, 95% CI 1.67, 1.86), low food security (PR 1.62, 95% CI 1.53, 1.72), and very low food security (PR 2.79, 95% CI 2.65, 2.94), after adjusting for demographic characteristics. Food insecurity was also positively related to prevalence of affirmative responses for four SCOFF items.
Conclusions : This study shows that college students with food insecurity are more likely to screen positive for a possible eating disorder compared to food secure students. More research is needed to understand the complicated relationship between these two food-related constructs among college students.
Funding Sources : This study was supported by a grant from Poverty Solutions at the University of Michigan. One co-author was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.