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The Interrelationship between Race, Social Norms, and Dietary Behaviors among College-attending Women

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Objective: The association between social norms and dietary behaviors is well-documented, but few studies examine the role of race. The aim of this study was to determine the interrelationships among race, social norms, and dietary behaviors. Methods: We used data from the Healthy Friends Network Study (a pilot study of women attending a southern university). Dietary behaviors, social norms, and self-identified race were obtained. Results: African Americans had lower odds of daily vegetable (OR = 0.55, 95% CI = 0.38-0.79) and fruit consumption (OR = 0.45, 95% CI = 0.30-0.67), but no race difference in frequent consumption of fatty/fried/salty/sugary foods was observed in fully adjusted models. Proximal descriptive norms were associated with all dietary behaviors, but distal injunctive social norms were associated with lower odds of frequent unhealthy food consumption (OR = 0.10, 95% CI = 0.05-0.21). Race differences in family descriptive norms were found to mediate race differences in vegetable and fruit consumption by 7%-9%. However, race differences in friend and family injunctive norms mediated 20%-50% of the effects of race on frequent unhealthy food consumption. Conclusions: Proximal injunctive norms account for race differences in unhealthy food consumption. Future studies should further explicate the mechanisms and seek to utilize social norms in behavior change interventions.
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Keywords: DIET; RACE; SOCIAL NORMS; STUDENTS; WOMEN

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Maryland, College Park, Department of African American Studies, College Park, MD;, Email: [email protected] 2: Maryland Hunger Solutions, Food Research and Action Center, Baltimore, MD

Publication date: January 1, 2019

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  • The American Journal of Health Behavior seeks to improve the quality of life through multidisciplinary health efforts in fostering a better understanding of the multidimensional nature of both individuals and social systems as they relate to health behaviors.

    The Journal aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the impact of personal attributes, personality characteristics, behavior patterns, social structure, and processes on health maintenance, health restoration, and health improvement; to disseminate knowledge of holistic, multidisciplinary approaches to designing and implementing effective health programs; and to showcase health behavior analysis skills that have been proven to affect health improvement and recovery.

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