Food Choices of Disadvantaged Women: Social, Environmental & Psychological Influences

Wendy Lawrence
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Many women in Britain have unbalanced, unvaried diets detrimental to their health, and such diets are more common in disadvantaged women. Improving the diets of these women may hold the key to breaking the cycle of disadvantage and ill health suffered by this population today. Recent research has shown women with few qualifications eat less balanced diets. Food choice is a complex behaviour, thus this study wishes to investigate what psychological, social and environmental factors influence the food choices of young women with low educational attainment.

Data were collected from 10 focus groups – eight with low, and two with high educational attainment. Transcripts were analysed using thematic analysis.

Themes identified included shortage of money/worry about waste, family control over foods eaten, childhood mealtime memories, cooking issues, lack of opportunities for activity outside the home and unhealthy eating habits.

Interventions to improve the diets of these women should include peer-led cooking skills initiatives, support for other life issues, working with families to educate about and engage with food, including advice on managing finances and avoiding waste.

Keywords: Food Choice, Low Educational Attainment, Disadvantage, Young Women, Psychological, Social, Environmental
Stream: Psychology, Cognitive Science and the Behavioural Sciences, Natural, Environmental and Health Sciences
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Wendy Lawrence

Researcher, Food Choice Group
University of Southampton, Medical Research Council Epidemiology Resource Centre

Southampton, Hampshire, UK

After graduating with a BSc (Hons) in Psychology in 1999, Wendy Lawrence obtained a masters degree in Health Psychology from the University of Southampton in 2001. For her main research project, she investigated the relationship between various health behaviours (such as smoking) and the amount of control pregnant women perceived they had over the health of their unborn baby. From this work, papers have been published in journals such as Health Psychology. She joined the MRC EEU in October 2000 as the Research Assistant for the Southampton Women's Survey infant follow-up. She is a Chartered Health Psychologist, and member of the British Psychological Society and their Division of Health Psychology. Her particular research interests are all aspects of women's health, including diet and smoking. Her PhD is investigating influences on the food choices of women with low educational attainment, initially collecting data by way of focus groups.

Ref: I06P0176