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Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Science

Understanding ethnic variations in the prevalence and experience of food insecurity, and its interaction with mental health: A mixed-methods longitudinal research programme

Household food insecurity is a cause and consequence of poor mental health. Over the last decade, food insecurity has become increasingly relevant to the health of UK populations due to the continuing retreat of the welfare state, growing inequality and the Covid-19 pandemic. Emerging evidence on UK food insecurity points towards a relationship with mental health and shows that food bank usage is particularly prevalent among individuals who report mental health problems. Ethnic minority groups, especially Black British and South Asian groups, are at higher risk of poverty and experience worse mental health than the majority white ethnic group. This may indicate that they are at higher risk of food insecurity, and associated mental ill-health, than the majority (white British) ethnic group. However, evidence on the relationship between food insecurity and ethnicity in the UK – including the potentially heightened risk of ethnic minority groups to poor mental health associated with food insecurity – remains severely limited.

The Fellowship project proposes to address this research gap. It explores the intersection of contemporary marginality, ethnicity and mental health through an integrative mixed methods study of the prevalence, causes, and lived experience of food insecurity in the UK. The project aims to:

  • understand variations in the prevalence and socio-demographic correlates of food insecurity, and its interaction with mental health, among UK ethnic groups
  • understand how different ethnic groups conceptualise ‘food insecurity’ and how this shapes its interaction with their mental health
  • understand ethnic variations in the lived experience of food insecurity, including food bank use, and its interaction with mental health
  • theorise the nexus of marginality, ethnicity and health in post-industrial Britain
  • provide a platform for mixed-methods, longitudinal analyses of food insecurity.

The Fellowship is composed of two interlinked studies, integrated within a new theoretical framework on contemporary marginality. Study 1 employs Qualitative Longitudinal Research methods (N=42) over two years to explore the experience of food insecurity, the contingent nature of ethnicity, and the interaction of food insecurity, ethnicity and mental health. Study 2 estimates the prevalence, socio-demographic correlates and mental health causes and consequences of food insecurity and food bank use among UK ethnic groups, using existing and commissioned national and local survey data.

Project collaborators include the ActEarly, Better Start Bradford Innovation Hub, and the Independent Food Aid Network.

Funding

Funder: Wellcome Trust
Start Date January 2021
End Date December 2023

Members

Internal Staff

Public Health and Society Research in the Department of Health Sciences