Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Constraints on food choices of women in the UK with lower educational attainment

M Barkera1 c1, WT Lawrencea1, TC Skinnera2, CO Haslama3, SM Robinsona1, HM Inskipa1, BM Margettsa1, AA Jacksona1, DJP Barkera1, C Coopera1 and the Food Choice Group, University of Southampton

a1 Food Choice Group, MRC Epidemiology Resource Centre, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton SO16 6YD, UK

a2 School of Psychology, University of Wollongong, Northfields Avenue, Wollongong, New South Wales 2500, Australia

a3 Department of Human Sciences, Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leicestershire LE11 3TU, UK

Abstract

Objective Women of lower educational attainment have less balanced and varied diets than women of higher educational attainment. The diets of women are vital to the long-term health of their offspring. The present study aimed to identify factors that influence the food choices of women with lower educational attainment and how women could be helped to improve those choices.

Design We conducted eight focus group discussions with women of lower educational attainment to identify these factors. We contrasted the results of these discussions with those from three focus group discussions with women of higher educational attainment.

Setting Southampton, UK.

Subjects Forty-two white Caucasian women of lower educational attainment and fourteen of higher educational attainment aged 18 to 44 years.

Results The dominant theme in discussions with women of lower educational attainment was their sense that they lacked control over food choices for themselves and their families. Partners and children exerted a high degree of control over which foods were bought and prepared. Women’s perceptions of the cost of healthy food, the need to avoid waste, being trapped at home surrounded by opportunities to snack, and having limited skill and experience with food, all contributed to their sense they lacked control over their own and their family’s food choices.

Conclusions An intervention to improve the food choices of women with lower educational attainment needs to increase their sense of control over their diet and the foods they buy. This might include increasing their skills in food preparation.

(Received June 28 2007)

(Accepted December 14 2007)

Correspondence

c1 Email meb@mrc.soton.ac.uk

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