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“These work requirements harm people without measurable benefit to the economy” – ScienceDaily

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A new study from Northwestern University found that work requirements to receive food benefits from the US government significantly increased the use of psychiatric care for depression and anxiety. The negative effects of the policy occurred much earlier for women than for men.

This is the first study to examine how work requirements associated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), sometimes called food stamps, affect mental health.

The study was published July 28 in the journal Health Services Research.

SNAP improves the food security, health, and economic well-being of low-income individuals and families and is provided by the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA.

“We’ve known for some time that food insecurity is associated with poor mental health because of the fear, stigma, depression, anxiety and stress surrounding it,” said corresponding author Lindsay Allen, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern’s Feinberg School of Medicine. university. medicine. “So it’s not surprising that people’s stress increased when they realized they would lose access to food if they didn’t comply.”

About SNAP, how the study worked

While SNAP’s work requirements are federally mandated, states can get exemptions in counties that don’t have much economic opportunity. As employment rates and job availability have increased over the past decade, these waivers are being phased out, exposing hundreds of thousands of SNAP applicants to eligibility.

In 2016, West Virginia implemented these work requirements in a nine-county pilot program. Researchers analyzed West Virginia’s Medicaid claims data to assess whether health care visits for depression and anxiety changed after county residents receiving treatment were exposed to SNAP work requirements. The study sample included people between the ages of 18 and 49 who were enrolled in both SNAP and Medicaid at the start of the study.

The results of the study

The study found that work demands worsened depression and anxiety among those who lived in nine pilot counties.

For women, work demands increased visits for depression and anxiety by 26% and 12%, respectively. Men also increased attendance, but more slowly than women. The difference in timing may be due to women’s greater role in feeding the family, making them more vulnerable to the effects of food insecurity, Allen said.

The study adds to growing recent evidence that SNAP work requirements do not improve employment rates — their intended outcome — but reduce SNAP participation, especially among vulnerable groups such as people with no income, the homeless, and those living in rural areas.

“So these work requirements hurt people without measurable benefit to the economy,” Allen said.

Policymakers and future research should seek to better understand these trade-offs when considering the net impact of SNAP work requirement policies on already marginalized populations, Allen said.

Story source:

Materials is provided Northwestern University. Originally written by Christine Samuelson. Note: Content can be edited for style and length.

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