Factors affecting food choices of older adults from high and low socioeconomic groups: a discrete choice experiment

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Apr;101(4):768-74. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.096776. Epub 2015 Jan 28.


Background: Healthiness, price, and convenience are typically indicated as important motives for food choices; however, it is largely unknown to what extent older adults from high and low socioeconomic groups differ in these underlying motives. A discrete choice experiment (DCE) is an innovative way to elicit implicit motives for food choices.

Objective: The aim was to investigate differences in food motives between socioeconomic groups by means of a DCE.

Design: A DCE was carried out during a face-to-face interview among older adults as part of the Health and Living Conditions in Eindhoven and surrounding cities (GLOBE) cohort study, The Netherlands. Participants (n = 399; mean age: 63.3 y) were offered a series of choice sets about a usual dinner at home and were asked to choose in each choice set between 2 meals and an opt-out choice, with different combinations of attribute levels. We included 5 meal attributes (taste, healthiness, preparation time, travel time to shops, and price) and 3 or 4 levels for each attribute. Data were analyzed by multinomial logit models.

Results: Healthiness, taste, price, and travel time to the grocery store proved to significantly influence older adults' meal decisions; preparation time was not significant. Healthiness was the most important attribute for all of the participants. More highly educated participants rated a healthy and less expensive meal to be more important than did less educated participants. Those with a high income rated a meal that was healthy and very tasteful to be more important than did those with a lower income.

Conclusions: Healthiness, taste, price, and travel time to grocery shops influenced older adults' meal decisions. Higher socioeconomic groups valued health more than did lower socioeconomic groups. DCEs represent a promising method to gain insight into the relative importance of motives for food choices. This trial was registered at www.isrctn.com as ISRCTN60293770.

Keywords: DCE; food; food attributes; motives; older adults; socioeconomic position.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Choice Behavior*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Food Preferences*
  • Food, Organic / economics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Netherlands
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Taste

Associated data

  • ISRCTN/ISRCTN60293770