The THEMA study: a sociodemographic survey of hypercholesterolaemic individuals

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Hypercholesterolaemia is estimated to affect 20% of the population, although little sociodemographic information is available on affected individuals. The present study aimed to gather relevant information and investigate social determinants of dietary compliance.


A telephone survey was carried out on a representative population sample. Quotas were applied for gender, geography and degree of urbanisation. Individuals were eligible if they were hypercholesterolaemic, and were being followed by a doctor. Sociodemographic, socioeconomic and health data were collected, as well as information about the individuals’ perception of the disease, their relationship and beliefs surrounding food, and their food behaviour (shopping, cooking, eating-out, deviation from prescribed diet). The association between compliance with diet and medication was investigated.


Overall, 802 individuals were included, representing 8% of those contacted, as opposed to the expected 20%. Mean (SD) age was 60 (14.2) years, with 51% of individuals living as a couple; 48% had a good level of physical activity; 44% considered that the hypercholesterolaemia was inherited; 31% felt that the disease was normal beyond the age of 45 years. The functional and convivial aspects of eating were of more importance than that of health maintenance. Cheese was particularly likely to be eaten in dietary lapses. Of a subgroup of 729 individuals, 476 (65%) took medication; of these 476 individuals, 51% complied with dietary recommendations (P < 0.05).


The key factors associated with dietary compliance in hypercholesterolaemic individuals were identified: age, sex, the perceptions of hypercholesterolaemia, and the sociocultural aspects of food. By contrast to general assumptions, both dietary and medicinal measures are practised fairly well by a large proportion of these individuals.

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