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Combining social and nutritional perspectives: from adolescence to adulthood (the ASH30 study)

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to focus specifically on the benefits of using mixed methods to investigate dietary change from adolescence to adulthood exemplified using the findings from the ASH30 longitudinal study. The ASH30 study is a longitudinal dietary survey which provided quantitative evidence of dietary change and investigated factors influencing dietary change from adolescence to adulthood. Design/methodology/approach ‐ Two three-day food diaries were collected both in 1980 (aged 11-12 years) and 2000 (aged 31-32 years) from the same 198 respondents in North East England. In 2,000 questionnaires were used to collect perceptions of, and attributions for, dietary change and open-ended responses were analysed using content analysis. Findings ‐ The use of mixed methods brings added breadth and depth to the research which cannot be achieved by a single discipline or method. Determining what has influenced change in dietary behaviour from adolescence to adulthood is a complex and multifaceted task. Eating habits are influenced by multiple factors throughout the life course. Change in food intake between adolescence and adulthood related to life-course events and trajectories. The qualitative findings highlighted relevant contextual information such as themes of moral panics, the concept of "convenience" and "fresh" foods. Practical implications ‐ Adopting mixed method approaches to exploring dietary change should offer a rich perspective from which to base realistic interventions. Originality/value ‐ Longitudinal dietary surveys present an opportunity to understand the complex process of dietary change throughout the life course in terms both of how diets have changed but also of why they have changed.
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Keywords: Diet; England; Nutrition; Research methods

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2008-10-24

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