Background: The health benefits of adequate fruit and vegetable (F&V) consumption are significant and widely documented. However, many individuals self-report low F&V consumption frequency per day. This paper examines the disparities in the frequency of F&V consumption by socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics.
Method: This study uses a representative sample of 93,719 individuals from the Canadian Community Health Survey (2007). A quantile regression model is estimated in order to capture the differential effects of F&V determinants across the conditional distribution of F&V consumption.
Results: The conditional and unconditional analyses reveal the existence of a socioeconomic gradient in F&V consumption frequency, in which the low income-education groups consume F&V less frequently than the high income-education groups. We also find significant disparities in F&V consumption frequency by demographic and lifestyle characteristics. The frequency of F&V consumption is relatively lower among: males, those in middle age, singles, smokers, individuals with weak social interaction and households with no children. The quantile regression results show that the association between F&V consumption frequency, and socio-demographic and lifestyle factors varies significantly along the conditional F&V consumption distribution. In particular, individual educational attainment is positively and significantly associated with F&V consumption frequency across different parts of the F&V distribution, while the income level matters only over the lower half of the distribution. F&V consumption follows a U-shaped pattern across the age categories. Those aged 30-39, 40-49 and 50-59 years consume F&V less frequently than those aged 18-29 years. The smallest F&V consumption is among the middle aged adults (40-49).
Conclusions: Understanding the socio-demographic and lifestyle characteristics of individuals with low F&V consumption frequency could increase the effectiveness of policies aimed at promoting F&V consumption. The differential effects of individual characteristics along the F&V consumption distribution suggest the need for a multifaceted approach to address the variation in F&V consumption frequency.