MONDAY, Sept. 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) — Almost 1 in 10 U.S. seniors doesn’t have enough food to eat, a new study shows.
And for those under 65 who qualify for Medicare because they’re disabled, 4 of 10 may be going hungry, the researchers added.
“People are always talking about Medicare and how to tweak it and improve access to care, but these kinds of social problems [hunger] can be just as much of an issue,” said study author Jeanne Madden, from Northeastern University in Boston.
Madden said the problem of what researchers call “food insecurity” isn’t a new one. It’s officially defined as an inability to get enough food due to financial reasons.
She said things are being done within the health care system to try to address this, such as screening patients for the problem and giving patients access to social workers that can help them find services available to them, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the U.S. federal government.
“But it’s a systemic problem and people really struggle. Addressing it solely in the health care system is just staunching the bleeding,” Madden added.
For the study, she and her team looked at data from nearly 10,000 people who took part in a 2016 Medicare survey. Just over 8,000 were over 65 and on Medicare, and almost 1,600 were under 65 and on Medicare.
Thirty-eight percent of those under 65 reported they were going hungry. Slightly more than 9% of those over 65 were in the same boat. Risk factors that increased the odds of going hungry included having an income of less than $15,000 a year, four or more chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety.
Dawn Apgar is director of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Seton Hall University in South Orange, N.J. “This study highlights an important social problem — food insecurity among older adults,” she said.
“The issue of hunger is often not discussed in the United States, so this study is important to reminding us that there are disparities which still exist between who has access to adequate and nutritious food and who does not,” said Apgar, who wasn’t involved with the research.