Objective: To examine associations between seven indicators of socio-economic circumstances and healthy food habits, while taking into account assumed temporal order between these socio-economic indicators.
Design and setting: Data were derived from cross-sectional postal questionnaires in 2000-2002. Socio-economic circumstances were assessed by parental education, childhood economic difficulties, own education, occupational class, household income, home ownership and current economic difficulties. Healthy food habits were measured by an index consisting of consumption of fresh vegetables, fruit or berries, rye bread, fish and choosing vegetable fats on bread and oil in cooking. Sequential logistic regression models were used, adjusting for age and marital status.
Participants: Employees of the City of Helsinki, Finland (n=8960, aged 40-60 years).
Results: Healthy food habits were reported by 28% of women and by 17% of men. Own education, occupational class, household income, home ownership and current economic difficulties were associated with healthy food habits. These associations were attenuated but mainly remained after mutual adjustments for the socio-economic indicators. Among women, a pathway was found suggesting that part of the effects of education on food habits were mediated through occupational class.
Conclusions: Employees in higher and lower socio-economic positions differ in their food habits, and those in lower positions and economically disadvantaged are less likely to report healthy food habits. Health promotion programmes and food policies should encourage healthier food choices among those in lower socio-economic positions and among those with economic difficulties in particular.