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Investigating Food Insecurity among Chronic Pain Patients

November 26, 2018
Pilot survey shows connections between this fear and pain, depression, and age

A PPM Brief

Ample previous research1-2 has suggested that there is a link between depression, lower socioeconomic status, and pain. In a new survey, Teresa Bigand, a PhD candidate at the College of Nursing at Washington State University Spokane, shared that patients who experience chronic pain and use food banks may also be prone to “food insecurity,” or the fear of running out of food before being able to buy more. She and her co-researchers presented their abstract3 at the 2018 Academy of Integrative Pain Management (AIPM) Global Pain Clinician Summit in Boston (see the full Meeting Highlights).

Bigand and her team of investigators attended community food drop-off events and mobile markets in low-income apartment housing areas in eastern Washington, where just over 200 participants completed a Patient Health Questionnaire that measured depressive symptoms (0 to 24 scale; 5 or greater indicated depression). They also completed the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS) sleep disturbance short form and the PROMIS pain interference short form.

Food BankChronic pain patients who use food banks may have a fear of running out of food. (Source: 123RF)

The researchers collected surveys from 207 food bank users (average age = 60 years, where 53.7% reported having chronic pain). The percentage of females was higher (72% vs 57%) in the pain group compared to other participants, along with body mass index (33.7 vs 31.5) and having a college degree (39.5% vs 27.7%). Those in the pain group also reported more mental health problems (36.7% vs 22.3%) and were more likely to use food stamps (77.1% vs 52.4%). Respondents also reported a high level of sleep disturbances, poor health, and depression.

The survey asked participants how often, over the prior 12 months, they worried that their food would run out before they had money to buy more. Answers included: never; rarely; sometimes; often; and always. About 51% of the participants indicated that they had food insecurity "often" or "always." The study showed that three variables independently predicted food insecurity in the previous year: the presence of chronic pain (P < 0.05), depression (P < 0.01), and age (younger participants were more likely to have food insecurity).

“Exploring the link between depression, pain, and food insecurity may result in greater understanding of causal relationships to reveal how to address unmet needs among adult food bank users,” concluded Bigand.

Last updated on: December 14, 2018
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