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Household food insecurity and socio-demographic determinants in young adults: findings from a Portuguese population-based sample



This study evaluated the prevalence and the socio-demographic determinants of food insecurity among young adults at a time of economic crisis recovery.


A cross-sectional study including 954 young adults (26 years old) from the EPITeen cohort (Porto, Portugal) was conducted. Food security status was evaluated using the US Household Food Security Survey Module: Six-Item Short Form. Associations between socio-demographic characteristics (sex, education, occupation, household size and structure and household income perception) and food insecurity were estimated using logistic regression.


At a time of economic crisis recovery, 11.0% of young adults experienced food insecurity. A higher odds of belonging to a food insecure household was observed in participants reporting an insufficient household income (OR = 23.3; 95% CI 11.3–47.8), those with less education (OR = 1.7; 95% CI 1.0–2.8), lower white-collar workers (OR = 2.3; 95% CI 1.2–4.2) and those living within a nuclear family including a partner and/or children (OR = 2.0; 95% CI 1.1–3.7).


Our findings support the need for interventions targeting those from lower income, from nuclear families of young adults with a partner and/or descendants, less educated and with non-manual unskilled occupations, to reduce food insecurity, particularly in economic vulnerable settings.

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The authors gratefully acknowledge the participants enrolled in EPITeen for their kindness, and all members of the research team for their enthusiasm and perseverance.


This work was supported by contributions from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the European Economic Area Grants, under the Public Health Initiatives Programme (PT 06, Grant No. 118SI2). This study was also funded by FEDER through the Operational Programme Competitiveness and Internationalization and national funding from the Foundation for Science and Technology—FCT (Portuguese Ministry of Science, Technology and Higher Education) (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016829), under the Project “A longitudinal approach to metabolically healthy obesity: from inflammation to cardiovascular risk profile” PTDC/DTP-EPI/6506/2014, by the Unidade de Investigação em Epidemiologia—Instituto de Saúde Pública da Universidade do Porto (EPIUnit) (POCI-01-0145-FEDER-006862; Ref. UID/DTP/04750/2013), the PhD Grant SFRH/BD/117371/2016 (IM), PhD Grant SFRH/BD/92370/2013 (TM), and the Postdoc Grant SFRH/BPD/88729/2012 (RL), co-funded by the FCT and the POCH/FSE Program; and the FCT Investigator contract IF/01060/2015 (ACS). This study is also a result of the Project DOCnet (NORTE-01-0145-FEDER-000003), supported by Norte Portugal Regional Operational Programme (NORTE 2020), under the PORTUGAL 2020 Partnership Agreement, through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

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Correspondence to Isabel Maia.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Maia, I., Monjardino, T., Lucas, R. et al. Household food insecurity and socio-demographic determinants in young adults: findings from a Portuguese population-based sample. Int J Public Health 64, 887–895 (2019).

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  • Food insecurity
  • Prevalence
  • Young adults
  • EPITeen