Does the social gradient remain in the dietary habits of a health-conscious population? A study of Seventh-Day Adventists in West Malaysia

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Abstract

Background

Socioeconomic status (SES) is a strong predictor of health, and individuals with higher SES generally have better health than those with lower SES. One of the pathways that SES influences health is through health behaviors, such as dietary intake, and a higher SES has been associated with a better diet. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there was a social gradient in dietary habits among the Seventh-Day Adventists, a group of conservative Christians, where healthy eating is part of the doctrinal teaching.

Methods

Data from a survey of 574 Adventists residing in West Malaysia, aged 18-80 years, were analyzed. Dietary habits were measured using the Nutrition subscale of Health Promoting Lifestyle Profile II.

Results

Education and income were significantly associated with dietary habits before and after controlling for demographics. There was a gradient of association; a higher level of education and higher income were associated with better dietary habits. However, only education remained significantly associated with dietary habits when the other two socioeconomic variables were included. Employment was not significantly associated with dietary habits before or after controlling for demographic variables and the other two sociodemographic variables.

Conclusions

This study showed that education is the strongest predictor of healthy diet, and a social gradient in dietary habits still exists even among health-conscious population.

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