Poverty Amid Plenty: Resource scarcity, aspirational consumption, relative deprivation, and mental health in India Open Access

Maxfield, Amanda (Fall 2019)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/n296x026b?locale=en


Interest in the relationship between food insecurity, water insecurity, and mental health has grown substantially in recent years, but critical gaps in the literature persist. First, few studies assess food and water insecurity simultaneously, particularly in urban areas. As a result, it is not clear whether food and water scarcity have independent, iterative, or overlapping effects on mental wellbeing. In the same vein, few studies examine whether intrahousehold disparities in water insecurity mirror intrahousehold disparities in food distribution.

Second, most research on resource insecurity and mental health has focused on documenting general associations, with few attempts being made to identify more proximate mechanisms. For example, food insecurity and mental wellbeing may be linked because food scarcities beget undernutrition, and evidence suggests that undernutrition increases one’s risk of common mental disorders. Alternatively, because food scarcities force households to alter the types and quantities of the foods they consume, food insecurity may lead to a reduction in the consumption of socioculturally significant foods. This, in turn, could contribute to feelings of isolation, shame, and powerlessness that ultimately result in depression, anxiety, or stress.

This dissertation attempts to address these gaps using data collected during 11 months of fieldwork with mothers, fathers, and adolescents (13-17 years) living in the slums of Jaipur, India. It examines whether the relationship between water insecurity and mental health exists when adjusting for food insecurity. And it tests whether gender- and age-based disparities characterize intrahousehold reports of food and water scarcity. In addition, it determines whether access to socioculturally significant foods—specifically, prestige foods—also varies with gender and age. Finally, it examines whether prestigious food consumption might mediate the relationship between food insecurity and mental health while controlling for measures of wealth and malnutrition. 

Table of Contents

I.     Introduction

II.    Chapter 1 Testing the theoretical similarities between food and water insecurity: buffering hypothesis and effects on mental wellbeing

Published as: Maxfield, A. (2019, in press). Testing the theoretical similarities between food and water insecurity: Buffering hypothesis and effects on mental wellbeing. Social Science & Medicine.

III.   Chapter 2 Globalization and Food Prestige among Indian Adolescents

Published as: Maxfield, A., Patil, S., & Cunningham, S. A. (2016). Globalization and food prestige among Indian adolescents. Ecology of food and nutrition55(4), 341-364.

IV.    Chapter 3 Can prestigious food consumption measure gender- and age-based disparities in intrahousehold resource access?

V.      Chapter 4 Local measures of relative deprivation: does prestigious food consumption predict mental wellbeing in Indian slums?

VI.     Conclusion

VII.    Appendix

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