Gender differences in the roles for social support in ensuring adequate fruit and vegetable consumption among older adult Canadians

Appetite. 2015 Sep;92:102-9. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.05.011. Epub 2015 May 14.


Background: Adequate fruit and vegetable consumption has been linked to reductions in all-cause mortality, stroke, and cancer. Unfortunately, less than half of Canadians aged 65+ meet the standard international guideline for adequate consumption (≥5 servings per day). Among older adults, social isolation and low social support are barriers to proper nutrition, but the effects of specific types of social support on adequate fruit and vegetable consumption are unknown.

Objective: This study sought to test hypotheses regarding direct and indirect pathways through which tangible and emotional/informational social support may facilitate adequate fruit and vegetable consumption among older adults.

Methods: Analyzing 2008-2009 Canadian Community Health Survey - Healthy Aging component data (n = 14,221), logistic regression models were developed to examine associations between tangible and emotional/informational social support, eating behaviors (eating alone and preparing one's own meals), and meeting the recommended guideline of consuming ≥5 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.

Results: In pooled models, emotional/informational support was positively associated with adequate fruit and vegetable consumption (OR = 1.16; 95% CI = 1.07, 1.27). Among men, neither social support form was directly or indirectly associated with adequate consumption; among women, adequate consumption was negatively associated with tangible support but positively associated with higher emotional/informational support. Both of these associations were mediated by not usually cooking one's own meals.

Conclusions: Programs and policies that seek to foster social support for older adults as a means of ensuring proper nutrition should consider the nuanced mechanisms through which different social support forms may operate for men and women.

Keywords: Fruits and vegetables; Gender; Health surveys; Older adults; Social support.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging
  • Canada
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Fruit*
  • Health Education
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Nutrition Policy
  • Sex Factors*
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Vegetables*