Depression Mediates the Relationship between Food Insecurity and Pain Interference in College Students




Umeda, Masataka
Ullevig, Sarah L.
Chung, Eunhee
Kim, Youngdeok
Escobedo, Tanya J.
Zeitz, Christopher J.

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Food insecurity (FI) typically produces unfavorable health conditions. Research shows the high prevalence of FI among college students, and depression is one of the adverse effects of FI among them. It is possible that FI may increase the risk of pain via depression; however, it is currently unclear whether FI is linked to pain among college students. Therefore, this study compared pain experiences between students with and without FI, and examined the relationship between FI, depression, and pain. One hundred seventy-six college students at a Hispanic-serving institution in the southwestern region of US completed self-report measures to assess FI, depression, pain severity, and pain interference. Results indicated that approximately 24% of the students were categorized as food insecure, and those students scored higher on pain interference compared to food-secure students. FI was positively associated with depression and pain interference scores, and depression scores were positively associated with pain interference scores. The mediation analyses based on the counterfactual framework demonstrated a significant mediation effect of depression, where 50.59% of the total effect of FI on pain interference was attributable to the depression. These results suggest that FI extends its negative effects into pain interference among college students, but better management of depression may help alleviate the effects of FI on pain interference.



food security, depression, pain, college students, stress


International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18 (1): 78 (2021)


Nutrition and Dietetics