Association between food insecurity, mental health, and intentions to leave the U.S. Army in a cross-sectional sample of U.S. soldiers
Beymer, M. R., Reagan, J. J., Rabbitt, M. P., Webster, A. E., & Watkins, E. Y. (2021). Association between food insecurity, mental health, and intentions to leave the U.S. Army in a cross-sectional sample of U.S. Soldiers. The Journal of Nutrition, 151(7), 2051-205 8 . https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxab089
Abstract Created by REACH:
This study examined the prevalence rates of marginal food insecurity (i.e., concern about having enough food to eat) in a sample of 5,677 Soldiers from a single US Army installation. Researchers also examined associations among food insecurity, mental health symptoms (i.e., depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts), and intentions to leave the U.S. Army after the current service period. Demographics (e.g., age, rank, marital status) and financial security were also accounted for in the model. Marginal food insecurity was linked with higher odds of depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
Branch of Service:
Active duty service member
Adulthood (18 yrs & older)
Young adulthood (18 - 29 yrs)
Thirties (30 - 39 yrs)
Middle age (40 - 64 yrs)
Beymer, Matthew R., Reagan, Joanna J., Rabbitt, Matthew P., Webster, Abby E., Watkins, Eren Y.
Background Previous research has demonstrated that certain groups in the United States are at a greater risk for food insecurity. However, food insecurity has not been sufficiently characterized in active duty military populations. Objectives The primary objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of marginal food insecurity at a large US Army installation. The secondary objective was to determine how marginal food insecurity may be associated with intentions to leave the US Army after the current service period (“intentions to leave”). Methods A cross-sectional, online survey was administered by the US Army Public Health Center at an Army installation in 2019 (n = 5677). The main predictor was the 2-item food insecurity screener (Hunger Vital Signs), and the main outcome was a 5-point Likert question, “How likely are you to leave the army after your current enlistment/service period?” that was dichotomized for this analysis. Multiple logistic regression was used to assess the association between marginal food insecurity and intentions to leave. Mental health covariates were analyzed as a potential mediator. Results The sample was primarily male (83%), age <25 y (49%), and White (56%). One-third of respondents were classified as marginally food insecure using the Hunger Vital Signs, and 52% had intentions to leave. There was no significant association between marginal food insecurity and intentions to leave in the composite multivariable model, but mediation analyses revealed that food insecurity was significantly and independently associated with anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, which was in turn associated with intentions to leave. Conclusions The association between marginal food insecurity and mental health showed that addressing food insecurity could improve mental health and subsequently reduce intentions to leave. Solutions to reduce military food hardship include expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program eligibility requirements, improving food resources communication, and expanding healthy food choices on-post.
US Army Public Health Center, Behavioral and Social Health Outcomes Program, Aberdeen Proving Ground, MRB
US Army Public Health Center, Health Promotion and Wellness Directorate, Aberdeen Proving Ground, JJR
US Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, MPR
US Army Public Health Center, Behavioral and Social Health Outcomes Program, Aberdeen Proving Ground, AEW
US Army Public Health Center, Behavioral and Social Health Outcomes Program, Aberdeen Proving Ground, EYW
food insecurity, marginal food insecurity, intentions to leave
REACH Publication Type: