malnutrition and food insecurity greater prevalence among women with impairments

Compared to women without impairments, women with disabilities are nearly twice as likely to judge their diet as poor and are more likely to suffer food insecurity, according to a new study headed by researchers at the NYU School of Global Public Health. The results are reported in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Journal.

One-fifth of 18- to 44-year-old U.S. women report having at least one handicap relating to hearing, vision, cognition, mobility, self-care, or independent living. However, research on the diets of women with impairments is scarce.

Diet has a crucial role in preventing numerous chronic diseases. A nutritious diet for women of reproductive age can also promote positive results during and after pregnancy. “However, a good diet requires access to healthy foods and the finances or skills to cook them, and women with disabilities may face barriers owing to medical issues or physical limitations.”

To better understand the diets of women with impairments, the researchers studied data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey waves from 2013 to 2018. (CDC). The 3,579 women between the ages of 18 and 44 were questioned about their daily food intake (which was converted into diet quality ratings) and other diet-related characteristics, such as food security and involvement in food assistance programmes.

Women were also asked if they have a handicap, which was defined as significant difficulty hearing, seeing, focusing, walking, dressing, and/or doing daily activities due to physical, mental, or emotional issues. Six percent of respondents reported having two or more forms of impairments.

There were few changes in the diet quality ratings of women based on their disability status, with the exception of women with two or more forms of disabilities, who had slightly lower scores for their consumption of fruit and protein-rich foods, such as meat, nuts, and fish.

Compared to women without disabilities, women with disabilities were more likely to report a poor diet and low or very low food security. Additionally, they were more likely to consume frozen meals and take part in food assistance programmes.

In addition, women with impairments were less likely to be the primary food planner, preparer, and shopper in their households.

To identify potential intervention areas among all individuals with disabilities, the researchers note that more research is required, particularly research that examines the intersection of disability status and social determinants of health, such as neighbourhood food environment, housing conditions, and social support that affect food storage and preparation.


Journal reference:
Deierlein, A.L., et al. (2022) Dietary Quality and Diet-Related Factors Among Female Adults of Reproductive Age With and Without Disabilities Participating in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys, 2013-2018. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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