Public Health Nutrition

Social, economic, political and environmental determinants

Socio-economic circumstances and food habits in Eastern, Central and Western European populations

Sinéad Boylana1, Tea Lallukkaa2, Eero Lahelmaa2, Hynek Pikharta1, Sofia Malyutinaa3, Andrzej Pajaka4, Ruzena Kubinovaa5, Oksana Braginaa3, Urszula Stepaniaka4, Aleksandra Gillis-Januszewskaa4, Galina Simonovaa3, Anne Peaseya1 and Martin Bobaka1 c1

a1 Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK

a2 Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

a3 Institute of Internal Medicine, Russian Academy of Medical Sciences, Novosibirsk, Russia

a4 Department of Epidemiology and Population Studies, Jagiellonian University Medical College, Krakow, Poland

a5 National Institute of Public Health, Prague, Czech Republic


Objective To assess the relationship between several socio-economic indicators and frequency of consumption of seven predefined healthy foods (consumption of fruit, vegetables, wholegrain bread, vegetable-fat spread, vegetable cooking fat, low-fat milk and low-fat cheese) in populations from Eastern, Central and Western Europe.

Design Analysis of baseline data collected in two cross-sectional cohort studies between 2000 and 2005: the Health, Alcohol and Psychosocial factors In Eastern Europe (HAPIEE) study and the Finnish Helsinki Health Study (HHS).

Setting Urban populations in the Czech Republic, Russia, Poland and Finland.

Subjects In the HAPIEE study, random samples of men and women aged 45–69 years were drawn from population registers and electoral lists of selected cities. In the HHS, men and women aged 40–60 years employed by the City of Helsinki were recruited. Data on 21 326 working subjects from both cohorts were analysed.

Results Healthy food habits were, in general, positively associated with higher education, occupational position and fewer economic difficulties, but there were differences in the strength of the gradient by food and country. Fruit consumption showed the most consistent gradients, especially in relation to socio-economic status among men (country-specific relative index of inequality (RII) = 2·02–5·17) and women (RII = 2·09–3·57).

Conclusions The associations between socio-economic indicators and healthy food habits showed heterogeneity between countries. Future studies of dietary behaviours should consider multiple measures of socio-economic position.

(Received November 18 2009)

(Accepted August 05 2010)

(Online publication September 15 2010)


c1 Corresponding author: Email