Introduction: The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the largest food assistance program for low-income Americans. Investigating mortality in this population is crucial to determining what further efforts are needed to reduce health disparities. The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) does not provide mortality data by SNAP participation status, so diet-related mortality according to SNAP eligibility and participation is not well established.
Objective: To examine cardiometabolic mortality among SNAP participants, SNAP eligible non-participants, and the SNAP ineligible population.
Methods: We used data from the National Health Interview Survey for 499,741 US adults age≥25y from 2000-2009 to assess SNAP eligibility and participation. These data were merged with the NCHS Linked Mortality file (2000-2009) to create a nationally representative cohort. Participants were followed until death or through Dec 31, 2011. Survey-weighted Cox-proportional hazards models were used to estimate hazard ratios of cause-specific mortality by SNAP eligibility and participation.
Results: Over a mean of 6.8 y of follow-up (maximum 11.9 y), we observed 7408 CHD deaths, 2185 stroke deaths and 1376 diabetes deaths. For all outcomes, in particular diabetes, SNAP participants had highest risk, followed by SNAP eligible non-participants, and then SNAP-ineligible individuals (Figure, panel A). Considerable differences in cause-specific risk of mortality were observed between race/ethnicities among SNAP participants, SNAP eligible non-participants, and the SNAP ineligible population (Figure, panel B).
Conclusion: Major health disparities exist between SNAP participants, SNAP eligible non-participants, and SNAP ineligible Americans, as well as by race/ethnicity. Ways to improve health outcomes of SNAP participants, including potential revisions to SNAP programming, are urgently needed to reduce these inequities.