Socio-Economic Status Impacts Dietary Quality

Figures reveal that the most common public health problems are related to food consumption. When excessive, it may lead to obesity, and when deficient, leads to a variety of malnutrition. This study was conducted to assess the demand for food in the UK and explain the incongruent rates of purchase.  The study “results emphasize the role that low incomes and socio-economic circumstances play in leading to poor diets and also indicate that the presence of children in a household has a negative impact on dietary quality.”

A significant challenge to health care comes from health issues associated with the diet. Also notable is that these problems differ in dissimilar sections of society. This research paper aimed to explore the demand for specific, essential food items.  It may also explain why some socio-economic groups are more liable to food-related illnesses. The authors have also tried to note the differences in buying food items with regards to the age and sex of the buyer. Knowledge of this disparity in buying could help policy makers decide on “targeted interventions” to correct diet related health problems.


  • For the study, researchers included participant households from the “UK government’s Expenditure and Food Survey (EFS) for 2003–2004.”
  • The people in the families and households recorded all food purchases for use over two weeks. They were provided food diaries to record this data.
  • A total of 7,014 households spread over 672 postcode regions were included. The database also provided data on the socioeconomic status of each house and whether they owned a car.
  • The data of purchase trends were then statistically analyzed.


  • Statistical interpretation showed that if fruit and vegetables were given at a subsidized rate, families may spend less on calorie-rich cereals, breads, and potatoes.
  • Results also reveal that a hypothetical “fat tax” may reduce the intake of red meats in many households.
  • Households that spend more, eat more meat as well as fruit and vegetables. Households that earn more, also spend more on fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Age and gender differences were also seen. It was noted that with increasing age people consumed more fruit and vegetables and less sugars and fats. Similarly if a woman bought household food, she bought more fats, sugars, fruit and vegetables and less meat.

Next steps
Authors suggest that based on these outcomes, policy makers need to understand the buying capacity and also plan for more “targeted interventions in order to reduce the incidence of diet related health problems in the future.” Further studies, one’s supporting subsidized rates for produce policies, would be a good next step toward improving the diets, and solving the health issues, of certain socio-economic populations.

This study shows that having a low socioeconomic status leads to poor dietary choices. Overall the results imply that “for two identical households, a difference in income of 10 per cent can be expected to lead to a difference in demand for fruit and vegetables of around 500g.” This is also important in households where there are children, as children are more prone to diet related problems in growth. Results also reveal that age, sex and ethnicity of the buyer in the household are important determinants. Authors suggest that these inadequacies in diet, as well as inadequate buying, could be corrected by appropriate subsidies and policies.

For More Information:
The Demand for a Healthy Diet and Inadequacy of Purchase
European Review of Agricultural Economics, July 2010
By Richard Tiffin; Matthieu Arnoult
From the University of Reading, UK, and the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, UK

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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