Return to 2001 Abstacts List

59. Food Insufficiency among Female VA Patients

KR Bush, Seattle VA Puget Sound Health Care System; AJ Epler, Seattle VA Puget Sound Health Care System; DR Kivlahan, Seattle VA Puget Sound Health Care System; C Maynard, Seattle VA Puget Sound Health Care System; KA Bradley, Seattle VA Puget Sound Health Care System

Objectives: Food insufficiency is becoming recognized as a barrier to health. Recent studies in primary care and emergency department populations documented past-year food insufficiency in 24% and 18%, respectively. This report presents the prevalence of food insufficiency in female VA primary care patients, and itís association with demographic and clinical characteristics.

Methods: In April 1998, we surveyed all female patients who received care in the VA Puget Sound Health Care System between October 1996 and January 1998. In addition to several other medical, preventive health history, and mental health status measures, the survey included one food insufficiency question, "Over the last year, how often did you skip a meal, or eat less than you know you should because there wasn't enough food or money to buy food?" Using chi square analysis, we evaluated the relationship of food insufficiency to the following characteristics: age, race, marital status, education, MHI-5 depression screen, and past year cigarette smoking. Covariates revealing a significant relationship in bivariate analysis were included in a multivariate logistic regression that was used to evaluate the odds of food insufficiency monthly or more often in this population.

Results: Of 1,935 surveyed women, 1,259 (65%) returned completed surveys, and 1,234 women completed the food insufficiency question. This female study population was mostly White (72.7 %), married (48.8 %), and had a mean age of 46.8. Consistent with previous reports on female veterans, most 1030 (83.5 %) attended college. Food insufficiency ever in the past year was reported by 375 (30.4%) respondents, with 212 (17.2 %) and 135 (10.9%) reporting food insufficiency monthly, and weekly or more often, respectively. In multivariate analyses, the odds of self-reported food insufficiency monthly or more often in the past year were increased among those women who were younger than 50 (OR 1.82; 95%CI 1.23-2.70), divorced or separated (OR 1.80; 1.30-2.48) past-year smokers (OR 2.03; 1.46-2.81), or who screened positive for depression (OR 2.66; 1.92-3.67).

Conclusions: One in 6 female VA patients in this study population reported food insufficiency monthly or more in the past year. The occurrence of food insufficiency monthly or more often in the past year is more common among those under age 50, divorced or separated, and those who reported past year smoking or symptoms of depression.

Impact: Self-reported food insufficiency often results in hunger or malnutrition and may be an important factor in health outcomes. Given the prevalence of this condition among female VA patients, future VA research should address the relationship between food insufficiency and health outcomes in this population.