The relationship between food insecurity and physical inactivity and the role of social support

Adeigbe, Rebecca T.
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Introduction: Currently 15% of the US population is food insecure. Food insecure individuals are shown to be less physically active, have less social support, higher rates of depression and are at higher risk for the development of chronic disease.

Purpose: The purpose of the study was to investigate the relationships between food insecurity and physical inactivity and to determine if social support moderated this relationship.

Research Focus: This study aimed to answer the following questions: (1) Is there a relationship between food insecurity and physical inactivity? (2) What are the correlates of physical inactivity and food insecurity? (3) Does social support moderate the relationship between food insecurity and physical activity?

Methods: This was a cross sectional study using secondary data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) survey. The three main variables for this study were weekly physical activity minutes, food security status and social support. Demographic variables were used as correlates. A total of 2,307 cases were used for analysis. Independent sample t-test, linear regression, logistic regression, chi-square and moderated mediation analysis tests were ran to answer the studies research questions.

Results: Independent t-test results found that food insecure individuals significantly participated in less physical activity compared to food secure individuals. Also, results of the regression analysis revealed income and education to be shared correlates between physical activity minutes per week, not meeting the PAGA and food insecurity. Gender, race, marital status and BMI were insignificant. Mediated moderation results revealed social support was not a moderator between food insecurity and physical activity.

Discussion: Food insecure individuals tend to be younger than food secure individuals, have larger household sizes, less education and lower household incomes compared to food secure individuals. Food insecure individuals also participate in significantly less weekly physical activity and leisure time physical activity but more transportation and household physical activity compared to food secure individuals. Social support does not moderate the relationship seen between food insecurity and physical inactivity; however, literature supports the importance of social support in increasing physical activity levels. With increasing obesity rates, increased sedentary behaviors, more US adults not meeting the PAGA, and the highest rates of food insecurity in the past 15 years, understanding the characteristics of this food insecure population and potential factor contributing to physical inactivity can help structure interventions and programs to reduce chronic disease and improve the health of this population.

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Food Insecurity, NHANES, Obesity, Physical Activity, Physical Activity Guidelines, Physical Inactivity
Health and Kinesiology