Food Insecurity, Sexual Risk, and Substance Use in Young Adults


Nagata, Jason M.; Palar, Kartika; Gooding, Holly C.; Garber, Andrea K.; Tabler, Jennifer L.; Whittle, Henry J.; Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten; & Weiser, Sheri D. (2020). Food Insecurity, Sexual Risk, and Substance Use in Young Adults. Journal of Adolescent Health. , PMCID: PMC7755757


Purpose The aim of the study was to determine the association between food insecurity, sexual risk behaviors, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and substance use in a nationally representative sample of U.S. young adults. Methods Cross-sectional nationally representative data of U.S. young adults aged 24–32 years from Wave IV (2008) of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health were analyzed. Multiple logistic and linear regression analyses were conducted with food insecurity as the independent variable and self-reported STIs, sexual risk behaviors, and substance use as the dependent variables, adjusting for covariates and stratifying by sex. Results Of the 14,786 young adults in the sample, 14% of young women and 9% of young men were food insecure. Food-insecure young women had greater odds of any STI, HIV, chlamydia, exchanging sex for money, and multiple concurrent sex partners in the past 12 months compared to young women reporting food security, adjusting for covariates. Food insecurity was associated with higher odds of any STI, chlamydia, and exchanging sex for money among young men who identify as gay or bisexual, but not in the general population of young men. Food insecurity was associated with greater odds of marijuana use, methamphetamine use, and nonmedical use of prescription opioids, sedatives, and stimulants in both young men and women. Conclusions Food insecurity is associated with risk behaviors and self-reported STIs, including HIV, in young adulthood. Health care providers should screen for food insecurity in young adults and provide referrals when appropriate.



Food insecurity

Reference Type

Journal Article

Journal Title

Journal of Adolescent Health


Nagata, Jason M.
Palar, Kartika
Gooding, Holly C.
Garber, Andrea K.
Tabler, Jennifer L.
Whittle, Henry J.
Bibbins-Domingo, Kirsten
Weiser, Sheri D.

Year Published








Reference ID