Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Factors influencing eating a varied diet in old age

Moira Deana1, Monique M Raatsa2 c1, Klaus G Grunerta3, Margaret Lumbersa2 and The Food in Later Life Team

a1 School of Biological Sciences, Queens University Belfast, David Keir Building, Stranmillis Road, Belfast BT9 5AG, UK

a2 Food, Consumer Behaviour and Health Research Centre, University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK

a3 MAPP – Centre for Research on Customer Relations in the Food Sector, University of Aarhus, Haslegaardsvej 10, DK-8210 Aarhus V, Denmark


Objective To investigate the influences of resources and food-related goals on the variety of food choice among older people.

Design A questionnaire-based survey in eight European countries: Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Spain.

Subjects Participants (n 3200) were above 65 years of age and living in their own homes. The samples were quota samples, eight groups of fifty in each country, based on gender, age and living circumstances, reflecting the diversity of each of the national populations based on education, income and urbanization of living environment.

Results Hierarchical multiple regression analysis showed that income, health status, access to a car and living arrangement affected the level of dietary variety. The perceived level of different food-related resources impacted the consumption of a varied diet over and above actual resource levels. Food-related goals contributed to variety of food intake that was not accounted for by the amount of material resources possessed or the social and other resources perceived to be possessed.

Conclusions Older people’s variety of food intake depended on material resources (e.g. monthly income, access to a car, living arrangement, physical and mental health). However, in addition to these variables, the way older people perceived other resources, such as their level of appetite, their food knowledge, their perception of the distance to the shops, access to high-quality products, having better kitchen facilities, access to good service providers and support from friends and neighbours, all contributed to how varied a diet they ate.

(Received February 13 2008)

(Accepted February 05 2009)

(Online publication April 06 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Email