Senior Research Analyst
We’ve discussed why food insecurity (lack of access to sufficient food) is linked to poor health and higher health costs — and how SNAP (formerly food stamps) reduces food insecurity and therefore may provide a path to better health. What’s more, those health benefits may last a lifetime: children receiving SNAP benefits early tend to have fewer obstacles to physical and mental development; adult recipients report better health; and seniors are less likely to cut back on medications due to cost, our new paper shows.
SNAP can help families afford a healthier diet, reduce the stress of not being able to afford adequate food, and free up income to spend on health. While evaluating SNAP’s exact impact on health is challenging, in part because people who choose to participate in the program are generally more disadvantaged than those who are eligible but don’t, rigorous research that controls for these differences has linked SNAP with improved health, both when participants receive benefits and later in life:
Adult SNAP participants are likelier to assess their own health as excellent or very good (see chart), as are parents who assess their child’s health. Adults have fewer sick days, visit the doctor less often, are less likely to forgo needed care because they can’t afford it, and are less likely to exhibit psychological distress.