Stock art of a box of donated food
A study conducted with 2nd Harvest food bank in Spokane found a link between chronic pain and food insecurity.

Chronic pain and depression are linked to food insecurity, according to new research headed by WSU College of Nursing PhD student Teresa Bigand. 

It’s the first study to show a relationship between chronic pain and food insecurity, defined as a lack of consistent access to food.

The study won awards at the Academy of Integrative Pain Management conference in Boston earlier this month and from the local chapter of Sigma, the international nursing honor society.

Marian Wilson, an assistant professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing and part of Bigand’s research team, said the student/resident/fellow research award from the Academy of Integrative Pain Management was especially noteworthy because Bigand was one of the few nurses participating in that international, interdisciplinary conference.

“It’s really quite an honor she could receive that award,” Wilson said.

Three people holding a certificate
From left to right, research assistant Joseph Musyoka, PhD student Hanna Gubitz, and PhD student Teresa Bigand, at the Sigma event in Spokane, where their research poster won an award for “most visually pleasing.”

The research was done in cooperation with the 2nd Harvest food bank in Spokane, and received financial support from the Selinger Shone Foundation.

Bigand surveyed food-bank clients and found three things predict food insecurity: whether a client reported they had depression or chronic pain, and how old they are.

“It’s interesting to me that the people who are most food insecure are the youngest, 65 and younger,” Bigand said.

Bigand said this small study, which surveyed about 200 people, is just the beginning.

“Diet can have an influence over your pain outcomes – I think that’s a really fascinating line of research,” she said.

–Story by Addy Hatch

Research: “Chronic Pain and Depression Predict Frequency of Food Insecurity among Food Bank Users,” by Teresa Bigand, PhD-C, MSN, RN; Jeremy Dietz, MSc; Joseph Musyoka, AA; Hannah N. Gubitz, MSN, RN; Marian Wilson, PhD, MPH, RN.