British Journal of Nutrition

Short Communication

Dietary patterns of school-age children in Scotland: association with socio-economic indicators, physical activity and obesity

Leone C. A. Craiga1a2 c1, Geraldine McNeilla1a2, Jennie I. Macdiarmida2, Lindsey F. Massona1 and Bridget A. Holmesa3

a1 Population Health, Division of Applied Health Sciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

a2 Public Health Nutrition Research Group, University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, Aberdeen AB25 2ZD, UK

a3 Nutritional Sciences Division, King's College London, London SE1 9NH, UK


The Survey of Sugar Intake among Children in Scotland was carried out in May to September 2006. The present study aimed to identify dietary patterns in school-aged children from the survey and investigate associations with socio-economic factors, obesity and physical activity. Habitual diet was assessed using the Scottish Collaborative Group FFQ. Height and weight were measured by trained fieldworkers. A total of 1233 FFQ were available for analysis. Dietary patterns were identified by age (5–11 and 12–17 years) and sex using principal components analysis. Associations between factor scores and socio-economic status, education level of the main food provider, physical activity levels and BMI category (based on UK 1990 charts) were examined. Three dietary patterns were identified in each age and sex group. ‘Healthier’ patterns loading highly for fruit and vegetables were significantly associated with higher socio-economic status and higher education levels of the main food provider whereas more ‘unhealthy’ patterns (‘snacks’ and ‘puddings’) were associated with lower socio-economic status and lower education levels of the main food provider. There was no consistent association between dietary patterns and BMI group or time spent in physical activity. However, inactivity (screen time) was inversely associated with ‘healthier’ patterns in all age and sex groups and positively associated with ‘puddings’ and ‘snacks’ in girls aged 5–11 years. Clear dietary patterns can be identified in school-age children in Scotland, which are consistently related to socio-economic factors and inactivity. This has implications for targeting health promotion at subgroups in terms of lifestyle changes required.

(Received January 06 2009)

(Revised August 12 2009)

(Accepted August 13 2009)

(Online publication October 16 2009)


c1 Corresponding author: Dr Leone Craig, fax +44 1224 559348, email


Abbreviations: ALSPAC, Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood; PCA, principal components analysis; SIMD, Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation