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One in six Portuguese over-50s don’t have enough money for food

Published on 12/09/2019

One in six Portuguese adults over the age of 50 live in a household with “food uncertainty”, according to a study by researchers from the Institute of Public Health of the University of Porto.

Researcher Isabel Maia explained that the study, published in the journal “Food and Nutrition Bulletin”, aimed to understand the “prevalence and factors behind food uncertainty” as well as “its consequences.”

Food uncertainty can be described as “limited” or “uncertain” access to nutritionally suitable foods for healthy daily eating due to economic constraints.

To determine this index, the researchers used data from the EPIPorto cohort (from a previous population study that has been assessing the health determinants of the adult population residing in Porto for 20 years). 604 individuals, aged between 50 and 90 participated in this research.

“What we wanted to study was this period in the life cycle of middle age and older adults, that is, we wanted to understand how susceptible they were to food uncertainty in a period characterized by the improvement of some sociodemographic indicators, such as unemployment, that is, a period of recovery from the economic crisis that Portugal went through, ” she said.

According to the researcher, this study found, based on a “series of questions”, that 16.6% of individuals belonged to a household with food uncertainty.

In addition to this prevalence, the researchers also looked at which “sociodemographic characteristics” were most associated or related to food uncertainty.

“What we found was that women, those with less education, those who were not married, individuals who perceived household income as insufficient, and those with less qualified occupations were at higher risk for food insecurity,” she stressed.

Isabel Maia said that this research could be “important” since, by highlighting which populations are most vulnerable to food uncertainty, we can provide scientific support behind deciding strategies to combat it.

“We emphasize that measures are needed to improve the food security status of individuals, to improve the numbers found in this study,” she concluded.

The researcher concluded that the group’s goal now is to “continue to study food uncertainty”, namely its consequences and its prevalence in children.