Traumatic Event Exposure Associated With Increased Food Insecurity and Eating Disorder Pathology

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Objective: The primary aim was to investigate the association between food insecurity (FI) and eating disorders, which are nutrition-based public health problems, with traumatic event exposure in a low-income marginalized population. The study also investigated the association between traumatic event exposure, anxiety and weight stigma.

Design: The study used self-report surveys in a cross-sectional design.

Setting: Food pantries affiliated with the local food bank in a major US city.

Subjects: Participants (n 503) consisted of clients presenting to food pantries. Participants were predominantly female (76·5 %), Latino/Hispanic (64·6 %) and low-income (59 % reported earning under $US 10 000 per year).

Results: Results indicated that 55·7 % of participants had directly experienced a traumatic event; this increased to 61·6 % when witnessing was included. Higher levels of FI were associated with greater traumatic event exposure. Increased exposure to traumatic events correlated with worsened overall eating disorder pathology (r=−0·239), weight stigma (r=−0·151) and anxiety (r=−0·210).

Conclusions: The present study is the first to investigate the association of FI, eating disorders and trauma in a low-income marginalized population. Results indicate that exposure to traumatic events is common in this civilian population and that traumatic event exposure is associated with higher levels of FI and eating disorder pathology. Results indicate that further research is warranted given that traumatic event exposure, eating disorder pathology, weight stigma and anxiety may complicate effective delivery of public health interventions in those living with FI.




Cambridge University Press

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Public Health Nutrition