Food insecurity among single men in Scotland: a qualitative investigation

Machray, Kathryn Elizabeth (2022) Food insecurity among single men in Scotland: a qualitative investigation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Background: Food insecurity has risen across the UK. Explanations for the rise include austerity policies and the rising cost of living in the context of stagnating wages. Food insecurity is associated with poorer physical and mental health outcomes. Within the UK there has been limited research which has focused on the experiences of single men, despite their over representation at food banks. Single men experiencing food insecurity are not a demographic who elicit sympathy among the public, media, or policymakers, and therefore their experiences receive little policy attention. This research seeks to explore the experiences of single men, and how their lived experience may be used to influence the policy making process.

Aims: This research had dual aims. The first was to explore single men in Scotland’s experiences of food insecurity and their perspectives on the causes of their food insecurity. The second was to explore policy actors’ reflections on how lived experience data can influence policy related to the experiences of food insecurity.

Methods: Photo-elicitation interviews were undertaken with a sample of 18 men, who did not have or did not live with a partner, and who were experiencing food insecurity, across Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Glasgow. These interviews were analysed using abductive analysis, with the lenses of structural violence and biographical disruption applied to further understanding. Nine policy actors were interviewed remotely, using semi-structured interviews, with elements of photo-elicitation incorporating data generated by single men in Scotland. These interviews were analysed using thematic analysis.

Findings: Single men’s experiences of food insecurity in Scotland reflect the complex interplay of individual lived experience of extreme hardship and understandings of the structural determinants of that experience. Their experiences were read as a consequence of structural violence – with social security policies alongside organisations which claim to provide support, particular sites of harm. In the lives of the men there was a coalescing of harms, with food insecurity and other intersecting conditions resultant from income insecurity and poverty, contributing to physical and psychological harm. Exploring these experiences through the lens of biographical disruption, food insecurity affected individuals’ identities and disrupted participants’ relationships with eating and food preparation. Participants mobilised resources to cope with their experiences of food insecurity, however, they often reported little hope of their situations improving due to macro-level drivers of their experiences. Policy actors indicated that the combination of photographs and quotes from lived experience research had the potential to be impactful in advocacy and potentially policy briefing settings. They raised concerns, however, around confidentiality and the potential to contribute to negative stereotypes of people living in poverty.

Conclusion: Single men living in Scotland experience needs-based deprivation as a consequence of structural violence, with perceptions of their vulnerability negatively impacting their ability to alleviate their situation in the immediate term through access to support. Lived experience, both directly from affected individuals and through the prism of research, may help to change perceptions, with photographs considered to be particularly impactful.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: R Medicine > R Medicine (General)
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Colleges/Schools: College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Health & Wellbeing > MRC/CSO Unit
Supervisor's Name: Fergie, Dr. Gillian and Chambers, Dr. Stephanie and Hilton, Professor Shona
Date of Award: 2022
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2022-83252
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 03 Nov 2022 11:23
Last Modified: 03 Nov 2022 11:26
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.83252

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