Association of moderate and severe food insecurity with suicidal ideation in adults: national survey data from three Canadian provinces

  • Karen M. DavisonEmail author
  • Gillian L. Marshall-Fabien
  • Angela Tecson
Original Paper



Although the important public health issues of food insecurity and suicide may be interconnected, they are rarely studied. Using data from a national survey, we examined whether household food insecurity was associated with suicidal ideation after adjusting for relevant covariates.


We examined cross-sectional data from three Canadian provinces (n = 5,270) that were derived from the 2007 Canadian Community Health Survey and included adults (18+ years). Suicidal ideation was based on affirmative response to the question of whether or not the participant had seriously considered committing suicide in the previous 12 months. The Household Food Security Survey Module provided measures of moderate (indication of compromise in quality and/or quantity of food consumed) and severe (indication of reduced food intake and disrupted eating patterns) food insecurity status. Logistic regression determined associations between food insecurity and suicidal ideation with adjustment for demographics, body mass index, and presence of a mood disorder.


There were differences in the proportion experiencing suicide ideation according to moderate (14.7 vs 10.0 % without suicide ideation) and severe (16.4 vs 7.1 % without suicide ideation) food security (p < 0.001). With covariate adjustment, suicidal ideation was significantly associated with moderate (adjusted OR = 1.32, 95 % CI 1.06–1.64) and severe (adjusted OR = 1.77, 95 % CI 1.42–2.23) food insecurity.


The findings of a robust association between food insecurity and suicidal ideation suggest that interventions targeted at food security may reduce suicide-related morbidity and mortality. Longitudinal investigations that examine various dimensions of food insecurity will advance understanding of etiological pathways involved in food insecurity and suicide.


Food insecurity Suicidal ideation Adults Mood disorders 



Body mass index


Canadian Community Health Survey


Household Food Security Survey Module


Odds ratio



The researchers would like to thank statistician Dr. Jonathan Berkowitz for providing his expertise and assistance with the analysis of the data. Financial support for analysis associated with this project was made available from Public Health Agency of Canada which played no role in carrying out the study, analyzing the results, or influencing publication.

Conflict of interest


Ethics approval

Not required for population-based dataset.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen M. Davison
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Gillian L. Marshall-Fabien
    • 3
  • Angela Tecson
    • 4
  1. 1.School of NursingUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.Health Science Program, Department of BiologyKwantlen Polytechnic UniversitySurreyCanada
  3. 3.Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social SciencesCase Western Reserve UniversityClevelandUSA
  4. 4.Berkowitz and Associates Consulting IncorporatedVancouverCanada

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