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J Nutr Health Aging. 2010 May;14(5):381-5.

Perceptions of aging and health behavior: determinants of a healthy diet in an older German population.

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Mannheim Institute of Public Health, Social and Preventive Medicine, Heidelberg University, Mannheim Medical Faculty, Germany.



The objectives of this study were to assess the association between perceptions of aging and health behavior, and to identify determinants of a healthy diet.


Self-reported data obtained by computer-assisted telephone interviews from 2,002 German participants were analyzed.


General population.


982 randomly selected men and 1,020 women aged 50-70 years were surveyed.


The questionnaire consisted of 31 items concerning attitudes on age and aging (5-point Likert scale). Additionally variables including dietary habits, exercise, smoking, alcohol consumption as well as sociodemographic variables were also assessed. Factor and cluster analyses were used to identify typical perceptions of aging. Determinants of a healthy diet were identified by regression analysis.


Three different perceptions were found: "fit and performance-hungry" (n=808), "conventional" (n=618), and "easy-going and committed" (n=576). The "fit and performance-hungry" engaged in exercising more regularly and were more likely to follow a healthy diet compared to the other groups in the sample. Diet was associated with attitudes and beliefs and came along with other favorable health behaviors like regular exercising and non-smoking.


Individuals with a positive perception of aging showed a significantly better health behavior than those who identified themselves with a conventional perception of aging. Individual perceptions of aging are an important starting point when designing prevention programs for older adults.

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