People with inadequate access to food due to financial constraints are 10 to 37 per cent more likely to die prematurely from any cause other than cancer, according to a study published on Monday.
Researchers, including those from the University of Toronto, looked at data from more than half a million adults in Canada.
The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, categorised people as food secure, or marginally, moderately, or severely food insecure.
By the end of the study period, 25,460 people had died prematurely, the researchers said.
“Among adults who died prematurely, those experiencing severe food insecurity died at an age 9 years earlier than their food-secure counterparts — 59.5 years old versus 68.9 years,” said study lead author Fei Men, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Toronto.
The average life expectancy in Canada in 2008-2014 was 82 years, the researchers said.
Deaths at or before that age were considered premature in this study, they said.
Premature death by infectious-parasitic diseases, unintentional injuries, and suicides was more than twice as likely for those experiencing severe versus no food insecurity, according to the study.
Previous studies have examined the relation between inadequate food and death, although none looked at causes of death, the researchers noted.
“The significant correlations of all levels of food insecurity with potentially avoidable deaths imply that food-insecure adults benefit less from public health efforts to prevent and treat diseases, and injuries than their food-secure counterparts,” Men said.
The researchers noted that policies to address food insecurity have the potential to reduce premature death.
“The markedly higher mortality hazard of severe food insecurity highlights the importance of policy interventions that protect households from extreme deprivation,” said Men.