The psychological impact of food poverty

Elizabeth Bonnar, Nicola Parker, Hannah Kane, Claire Bowen

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


Background: Successive UK governments’ austerity agenda has pushed a growing number of adults and children into poverty, with the UN reporting more than 8 million people in the UK having an insufficient supply of food. Major charities such as the Trussell Trust and Oxfam have reported annual increases in the number of people accessing foodbanks for emergency supplies of food. Research on the impact of being in food poverty has reported that people experience negative affective states, isolation, and loneliness.

Aims: This research study aimed to provide insight into the psychological impact of being in food poverty, via semi-structured interviews with people using foodbanks located in the central belt of Scotland, and to locate the findings within the wider psychological literature.

Method: Twenty-seven participants (13 female, aged 18 – 64) were recruited from foodbanks around Glasgow and Ayrshire between November 2017 and January 2018. Semi-structured interviews focused on each person’s situational circumstances, the impact on their physical and psychological wellbeing, the impact on their relationships, and their future goals. A thematic analysis was conducted on the transcribed interview data.

Findings: Four overarching themes (with sub-themes) were identified in the data, showing that being in food poverty: 1) Negatively impacts mental health; 2); Alters people’s self-concepts; 3) Impacts relationships and 4) Impacts plans for the future.

Conclusions: The psychological impact of being in food poverty has negative consequences that have the potential to keep people in poverty. More in-depth research is needed to understand the long-term impact of food poverty.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 Sept 2018
EventBritish Psychological Society Community Psychology Festival: I am because we are - The Wash, Hertford, Hertfordshire, Hertford, United Kingdom
Duration: 23 Sept 201824 Sept 2018


ConferenceBritish Psychological Society Community Psychology Festival
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • poverty
  • food poverty
  • austerity


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