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Low levels of food involvement and negative affect reduce the quality of diet in women of lower educational attainment

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Background:  Women of lower educational attainment tend to have poorer quality diets and lower food involvement (an indicator of the priority given to food) than women of higher educational attainment. The present study reports a study of the role of food involvement in the relationship between educational attainment and quality of diet in young women.

Methods:  The first phase uses six focus group discussions (n = 28) to explore the function of food involvement in shaping the food choices of women of lower and higher educational attainment with young children. The second phase is a survey that examines the relationship between educational attainment and quality of diet in women, and explores the role of mediating factors identified by the focus group discussions.

Results:  The focus groups suggested that lower food involvement in women of lower educational attainment might be associated with negative affect (i.e. an observable expression of negative emotion), and that this might mean that they did not place a high priority on eating a good quality diet. In support of this hypothesis, the survey of 1010 UK women found that 14% of the effect of educational attainment on food involvement was mediated through the woman’s affect (P ≤ 0.001), and that 9% of the effect of educational attainment on quality of diet was mediated through food involvement (P ≤ 0.001).

Conclusions:  Women who leave school with fewer qualifications may have poorer quality diets than women with more qualifications because they tend to have a lower level of food involvement, partly attributed to a more negative affect. Interventions to improve women’s mood may benefit their quality of diet.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, Southampton, UK

Publication date: October 1, 2012

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