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Public Health Nutr. 1998 Sep;1(3):193-8.

Factors which influence 'healthy' eating patterns: results from the 1993 Health Education Authority health and lifestyle survey in England.

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Institute of Human Nutrition, University of Southampton, Southampton General Hospital, UK.



This study explores the factors that influence eating patterns in a nationally representative sample of the English population.


Subjects were interviewed in 1993; questions covered basic demographic details, attitudes about nutrition, and they completed a short food frequency questionnaire that had previously been validated. Cluster analysis was used to summarize dietary intake into more or less healthy clusters.


A random sample of the English population.


A cross-sectional survey of 5553 men and women (response rate 70%) aged between 16 and 74 years.


As defined from the cluster analysis about half the sample were currently reporting a more healthy diet; respondents in the better educated middle-aged demographic cluster were more likely to report eating a more healthy diet than respondents in the younger lower-income family cluster. About three-quarters of all respondents believed that they either already ate a healthy diet or had changed to a healthy diet in the last 3 years. For those respondents who said they were eating a healthy diet about half of them were eating a more healthy diet. Respondents who had not changed their diet were more likely than those who had to believe that healthy foods were just another fashion (men 34% v. 13%; women 30% v. 12%), or expensive (men 50% v. 35%; women 53% v. 40%); they were less likely to care about what they ate (men 45% v. 13%; women 27% v. 7%). Nearly three-quarters of all respondents agreed that experts never agree about what foods are good for you. Younger, low-income families, and those who smoked, were the group least likely to be eating a more healthy diet.


The results of this study suggest that about half of the population has reported a change to a healthier diet over the last 3 years and that overall about half of the population report eating a healthy diet. Those who had not made any change and were currently reporting a less healthy diet were more likely to smoke and come from the 'worse off group in the survey; they were also more likely to hold negative attitudes about healthy eating. A more focused and integrated approach to promoting healthy lifestyle in general is required, while at the same time ensuring that there is continued support for the majority of the population who have made healthy dietary changes.

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