Public Health Nutrition

Environment and Sustainability

Is the objective food environment associated with perceptions of the food environment?

Lauren K Williamsa1 c1, Lukar Thorntona1, Kylie Balla1 and David Crawforda1

a1 Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia


Objective The present study examined whether objective measures of the food environment are associated with perceptions of the food environment and whether this relationship varies by socio-economic disadvantage.

Design The study is a cross-sectional analysis of self-report surveys and objective environment data. Women reported their perceptions on the nutrition environment. Participants’ homes and food stores were geocoded to measure the objective community nutrition environment. Data on the average price and variety of fruit and vegetables were used to measure the objective consumer nutrition environment.

Setting The study was conducted in Melbourne, Australia, in 2003–2004.

Subjects Data presented are from a sample of 1393 women aged 18–65 years.

Results Overall the match between the perceived and objective environment was poor, underscoring the limitations in using perceptions of the environment as a proxy for the objective environment. Socio-economic disadvantage had limited impact on the relationship between perceived and objective nutrition environment.

Conclusions Further research is needed to understand the determinants of perceptions of the nutrition environment to enhance our understanding of the role of perceptions in nutrition choices and drivers of socio-economic inequalities in nutrition.

(Received March 15 2011)

(Accepted June 14 2011)

(Online publication August 11 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email