Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Association between educational level and vegetable use in nine European countries

Ritva Prättäläa1 p1 c1, Samu Hakalaa1, Albert-Jan R Roskama2, Eva Roosa3, Uwe Helmerta4, Jurate Klumbienea5, Herman Van Oyena6, Enrique Regidora7 and Anton E Kunsta2

a1 National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, Finland

a2 Department of Public Health, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

a3 Folkhälsan Research Center, Helsinki, Finland

a4 Center for Social Policy Research, University of Bremen, Bremen, Germany

a5 Kaunas University of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

a6 Unit of Epidemiology, Scientific Institute of Public Health, Brussels, Belgium

a7 Department of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain


Objective The relationship of socio-economic status and vegetable consumption is examined in nine European countries. The aim is to analyse whether the pattern of socio-economic variation with regard to vegetable consumption is similar in all studied countries with high v. low vegetable availability and affordability, and whether education has an independent effect on vegetable consumption once the effects of other socio-economic factors have been taken into account.

Design The data for the study were obtained from national surveys conducted in Finland, Denmark, Germany, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, France, Italy and Spain, in 1998 or later. These surveys included data on the frequency of use of vegetables. Food Balance Sheets indicated that the availability of vegetables was best in the Mediterranean countries. The prices of vegetables were lowest in the Mediterranean countries and Germany.

Results Educational level was positively associated with vegetable consumption in the Nordic and Baltic countries. In the Mediterranean countries, education was not directly associated with the use of vegetables but, after adjusting for place of residence and occupation, it was found that those with a lower educational level consumed vegetables slightly more often. Manual workers consumed vegetables less often than non-manual workers, but otherwise there was no systematic association with occupation.

Conclusions The Mediterranean countries did not show a positive association between educational level and vegetable consumption. The positive association found in the Northern European countries is linked to the lower availability and affordability of vegetables there and their everyday cooking habits with no long-standing cultural tradition of using vegetables.

(Received April 02 2008)

(Accepted February 10 2009)

(Online publication April 30 2009)