Objective: The present study examined the association between area socio-economic status (SES) and food purchasing behaviour.
Design: Data were collected by mail survey (64.2 % response rate). Area SES was indicated by the proportion of households in each area earning less than $AUS 400 per week, and individual-level socio-economic position was measured using education, occupation and household income. Food purchasing was measured on the basis of compliance with dietary guideline recommendations (for grocery foods) and variety of fruit and vegetable purchase. Multilevel regression analysis examined the association between area SES and food purchase after adjustment for individual-level demographic (age, sex, household composition) and socio-economic factors.
Setting: Melbourne city, Australia, 2003.
Subjects: Residents of 2564 households located in fifty small areas.
Results: Residents of low-SES areas were significantly less likely than their counterparts in advantaged areas to purchase grocery foods that were high in fibre and low in fat, salt and sugar; and they purchased a smaller variety of fruits. There was no evidence of an association between area SES and vegetable variety.
Conclusions: In Melbourne, area SES was associated with some food purchasing behaviours independent of individual-level factors, suggesting that areas in this city may be differentiated on the basis of food availability, accessibility and affordability, making the purchase of some types of foods more difficult in disadvantaged areas.