The Relationship of Nutritional and Health Status, Diabetes, and Stress to Food Security Among the Northern Cheyenne

Year: 2001

Research Center: American Indian Studies Program, The University of Arizona

Investigator: Davis, Judith, Rita Hiwalker, Carol Ward, Cheryl Youngstrom, Weibo Li, and Erin Feinaur

Institution: Dull Knife Memorial College

Project Contact:
Judith Davis, Dean of Academic Affairs
Dull Knife Memorial College
Box 98
1 College Drive
Lame Deer, MT 59043
Phone: 406-477-6215, X-124


This project examined the relationships between food insecurity, nutrition, stress, and health status on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. The authors assessed the food security and nutritional status of Northern Cheyenne residents, identified stress factors that may contribute to the development of health problems—especially the risk for diabetes.

The research design included collection of both quantitative and qualitative data. The authors collected quantitative data from a stratified sample of approximately 475 households on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. The survey included questions about demographic characteristics and questions used to measure household food security and individual and family stress levels. The survey also contained questions about nutrition and health risks, including the risk factors associated with diabetes. The authors also collected qualitative data from 10 indepth, unstructured interviews with reservation residents and diabetes program staff regarding nutrition and diet, as well as sources of stress that may affect health and quality of life.

The authors found that almost 70 percent of residents of the Northern Cheyenne Reservation live in foodinsecure households, and that almost 35 percent live in households classified as food insecure with hunger. Almost one-fourth of survey respondents report that they have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with roughly 4 percent of the overall U.S. population. Survey respondents were asked about several conditions or behaviors associated with an increased risk of diabetes. The research found that almost three in four residents are classified at medium or high risk for diabetes, as defined by the American Diabetes Association. The risk of diabetes is fairly constant throughout many different subgroups of the population and at many different levels of education and employment status. However, reservation residents age 55 and older are at a lower risk of diabetes than younger residents. The researchers also found that about one-fourth of reservation residents report high levels of stress, and that those with higher levels of education and who work more hours are more likely to report high stress levels.

The results of the logistic regression analysis indicated that the age of the household head and the number of children in the household are positively related to the likelihood that the household is food insecure. Households in which the head is employed part-time or in seasonal work experience higher rates of food insecurity than those in which the head is employed full-time. Respondents that report high levels of stress are more likely to experience food insecurity.

The authors note that this data analysis suggests the importance of continued attention to many aspects of reservation life and, in particular, to the factors producing high levels of diabetes and diabetes risk in Native American populations.