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19.04.2019 | Original Paper | Ausgabe 9/2019 Open Access

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 9/2019

Food insecurity and work impairment in people with severe mental disorders in a rural district of Ethiopia: a cross-sectional survey

Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology > Ausgabe 9/2019
Kebede Tirfessa, Crick Lund, Girmay Medhin, Yohannes Hailemichael, Kassahun Habtamu, Abebaw Fekadu, Charlotte Hanlon



In this study, we aimed to identify factors associated with severe food insecurity and work impairment in people with severe mental disorders (SMD) in a rural African setting, with a view to identifying potential areas for intervention.


A community-based, cross-sectional survey was conducted in Sodo district, south central Ethiopia. Key informant-identified people with possible SMD were referred for assessment by trained primary care workers and received confirmatory psychiatric diagnoses from psychiatric nurses using a standardized clinical interview. Food insecurity was measured using a locally validated measure, the Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS). Work impairment was assessed using the Longitudinal Interval Follow-up Evaluation-Range of Impaired Functioning Tool. Potential moderator variables were specified a priori.


A total of 282 people with SMD participated in the study. The proportion of participants reporting severe food insecurity was 32.5% (n = 94), with 53.6% (n = 147) of participants reporting severe work impairment. In the multivariable model, severe food insecurity was associated with poor social support, experience of negative discrimination, higher disability and lower household annual income, but not with symptom severity or work impairment. Work impairment was associated significantly with symptom severity and disability.


Work impairment and food insecurity were associated with distinct explanatory factors: predominantly social factors associated with food insecurity and clinical factors associated with work productivity. Longitudinal and intervention studies are needed to evaluate the extent to which clinical interventions need to be augmented by social interventions to alleviate food insecurity in people with SMD.

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