Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Determinants of fruit and vegetable intake in England: a re-examination based on quantile regression

Georgios Boukouvalasa1, Bhavani Shankara1 c1 and W Bruce Trailla1

a1 Department of Agricultural & Food Economics, University of Reading, PO Box 237, Reading RG6 6AR, UK


Objective To examine the sociodemographic determinants of fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption in England and determine the differential effects of socio-economic variables at various parts of the intake distribution, with a special focus on severely inadequate intakes.

Design Quantile regression, expressing F&V intake as a function of sociodemographic variables, is employed. Here, quantile regression flexibly allows variables such as ethnicity to exert effects on F&V intake that vary depending on existing levels of intake.

Setting The 2003 Health Survey of England.

Subjects Data were from 11 044 adult individuals.

Results The influence of particular sociodemographic variables is found to vary significantly across the intake distribution. We conclude that women consume more F&V than men; Asians and blacks more than whites; co-habiting individuals more than single-living ones. Increased incomes and education also boost intake. However, the key general finding of the present study is that the influence of most variables is relatively weak in the area of greatest concern, i.e. among those with the most inadequate intakes in any reference group.

Conclusions Our findings emphasise the importance of allowing the effects of socio-economic drivers to vary across the intake distribution. The main finding, that variables which exert significant influence on F&V intake at other parts of the conditional distribution have a relatively weak influence at the lower tail, is cause for concern. It implies that in any defined group, those consuming the least F&V are hard to influence using campaigns or policy levers.

(Received January 03 2008)

(Accepted January 07 2009)

(Online publication March 27 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email