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Public health implications of dietary differences between social status and occupational category groups.
  1. A M Smith,
  2. K I Baghurst
  1. CSIRO Division of Human Nutrition, Adelaide, Australia.


    STUDY OBJECTIVE--As there is a social status gradient in chronic disease mortality in Australia, this study aimed to establish whether there were substantial differences among socioeconomically defined groups with respect to food choice and nutrient intake, in the context of risk of nutrition related chronic diseases. DESIGN AND PARTICIPANTS--Cross sectional data were collected from a randomly selected population sample of 1500 urban Australian adults. Data were collected by postal questionnaire, which included an assessment of dietary intake and questions on sociodemographic details. Three measures of social position were collected: occupation, educational status, and income status. Occupation was interpreted both on a continuous, prestige scale, and also as categorical occupational groupings. MAIN RESULTS--The study achieved a 70% response rate. Higher social status was generally associated with healthier dietary intakes, with lower fat and refined sugar densities, and higher fibre densities, but also with higher alcohol density. No differences were found in salt, polyunsaturated fat, protein, or complex carbohydrate densities across groups. Food intake differences were also found between occupational status groups, with the upper social groups tending to consume more wholegrain cereal foods, low fat milk, and fruit, and less refined cereal foods, full cream milk, fried meat, meat products, and discretionary sugar; but also more cheese and meat dishes. CONCLUSIONS--Although this study did show statistically significant differences across social status groups in relation to nutrient and food intakes, these differences were small compared to the disparity between intakes of all groups and the recommended patterns of intake, and did not appear to be great enough to be a major explanatory variable in differences in disease risk across groups.

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