Public Health Nutrition

Biological and behavioural determinants

Who eats healthily? A population-based study among young Swiss residents

Marietta Meiera1, André Berchtolda1, Christina Akréa1, Pierre-André Michauda1 and Joan-Carles Surísa1 c1

a1 Research Group on Adolescent Health, Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois and University of Lausanne, Bugnon 17, 1005 – Lausanne, Switzerland


Objective To assess whether Swiss residents aged 15–24 years follow current nutritional guidelines and whether differences exist according to gender and weight status.

Design Cross-sectional national survey.

Setting Switzerland.

Subjects The 1786 participants (48·4 % women) were divided into overweight, normal weight and underweight. We used traditional BMI cut-offs for people ≥18 years of age (underweight = BMI < 18·5 kg/m2, normal weight = BMI ≥ 18·5 kg/m2 and <25 kg/m2, overweight = BMI ≥ 25 kg/m2) and age- and gender-appropriate tables for people aged <18 years, with BMI calculated from self-reported weight and height. We performed bivariate analyses by gender, and then bivariate and multivariate analyses comparing overweight to normal weight people (excluding underweight, n 129, 71·6 % women) regarding adherence to recommendations for fruit, vegetables, meat, fish and dairy products; physical activity; attitude towards body weight; depression, smoking and alcohol consumption.

Results Overall, adherence to nutritional guidelines was low, particularly for vegetables and dairy products. Women had a higher adherence than men except for fish and dairy products. In the multivariate analyses, overweight women had a lower vegetable intake, were less satisfied with body weight and had more often been on a diet, whereas overweight men were less satisfied with body weight and wanted to lose weight more often than their normal weight peers. There were no significant differences for physical activity.

Conclusions Overweight prevention programmes should target youth specifically by gender and promote an appropriate self-perception. Overweight women should be encouraged to eat more vegetables and men to be more sensitised on healthy food. Further research is needed to assess how to make nutritional guidelines more adaptable to young people’s daily life.

(Received October 09 2009)

(Accepted March 18 2010)

(Online publication May 04 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email