Food stamp work requirements increase mental health care use: These work requirements harm people with no measurable benefit to the economy

Being exposed to work requirements in order to receive nutrition benefits from the U.S. government significantly increased mental health care use for depression and anxiety, a new Northwestern University study has found. The policy’s negative effects occurred much sooner for women than men.

This is the first study to look at how work requirements associated with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — sometimes referred to as food stamps — affect mental health.

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

SNAP improves food security, health and economic wellbeing for low-income individuals and families and is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

“We’ve known for a while that food insecurity is associated with poor mental health outcomes because of the fear, stigma, depression, anxiety and stress around it,” said corresponding author Lindsey Allen, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “So it’s no wonder peoples’ stress increased when they realized they were going to lose their access to food unless they met these requirements.”

Background on SNAP, how the study worked

While SNAP work requirements are federally mandated, states can get exemptions incounties where there isn’t much economic opportunity. With rising employment rates and job availability over the past decade, these waivers are being eliminated, exposing hundreds of thousands of SNAP enrollees to the requirements.

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