Eating behaviours and the workplace: the role of socioeconomic and sociodemographic characteristics

Grant, Judith (2018) Eating behaviours and the workplace: the role of socioeconomic and sociodemographic characteristics. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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The overall aim of the research described in this thesis is to explore the role of socioeconomic status (SES) (defined in terms of education, salary, and job grade) and demographic and personal factors (including age, weight, number of dependants, and gender) in relation to the eating behaviours of employees, and to explore barriers and facilitators to healthy eating in the workplace. The purpose of examining these issues in the workplace is to better enable practitioners to develop interventions designed to assist workers in the adoption of healthy eating behaviours.

The thesis opens, in Chapter 1, with an introduction to these concepts and consideration of their role in providing a focus for targeted workplace interventions to promote healthy food-related behavioural choices.

Chapter 2 shows that the vast majority of academic research on relations between SES and eating behaviours is based on community samples. Little is known about such relations in occupational samples. This is an important knowledge gap because with many people spending more than half of their daily waking hours at work, the workplace represents an ideal location for the promotion of healthy eating choices. In response to the knowledge gap identified above, the overall aim of this investigation is to examine relations between three indices of SES (education, salary band, and grade), plus demographic and personal factors (age, gender, number of dependants, and Body Mass Index (BMI)) and eating behaviours in a large public sector employee sample. Five specific eating behaviours are considered: Consumption of a healthy, well-balanced diet, fruit consumption, vegetable consumption, eating past the point of being full, and cost of food influencing purchasing behaviour. Analyses were carried out on data from the Stormont Study, an organisation-wide health-focused employee survey conducted in 2012 (Time 1) and 2014 (Time 2) in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS). The Stormont Study methodology is presented in Chapter 3.

A descriptive epidemiology based on cross-sectional analyses of data collected at T1 and T2 is presented in Chapter 4. These analyses identified the importance of demographic factors, in addition to the measures of SES in relation to eating behaviours. To explore relations between SES and eating behaviours, cross-sectional, prospective, and longitudinal analysis was carried out in Chapter 5. Relations between SES and eating behaviours were observed in all three analyses – however only grade and education reached significance in the longitudinal analysis. The demographic variables significantly contributed to the statistical model in all three analyses; age and BMI produced consistently significant relationships with nearly all eating behaviours across all three sets of analysis.

Chapter 6 explores the extent to which eating behaviours differed between age groups and BMI categories, to understand if interventions may benefit from demographic tailoring for high risk groups. In light of findings from the quantitative studies, and to better inform interventions to improve eating behaviours in the workplace, a qualitative study, in Chapter 7, was conducted in 2017, within a higher SES management group, in a large organisation that had recently been privatised after many decades in public ownership. The findings of the quantitative studies were explored with participants, in addition to asking them to consider the barriers and facilitators to eating a healthy, well-balanced diet, and their perceptions of the role of the employer in promoting healthy eating. Thematic saturation was reached upon completion of 15 interviews. Five main themes were identified, each containing multiple sub-themes: (1) knowledge, (2) behaviour, (3) access, (4) workplace culture and (5) responsibility (government and organisational responsibilities). Workplace culture was seen as a barrier to healthy eating, and therefore initiatives designed to modify work culture may prove effective as a means by which to promote healthy eating in the organisational setting.

Chapter 8 considers the research as a whole and the application of findings to workplace health promotion practice. Strengths and limitations of the investigation are discussed and recommendations made for future study.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Houdmont, Jonathan
Munir, Fehmidah
Keywords: Eating behaviour; Fruit and vegetable consumption; Workplace health; Socioeconomic status
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WA Public health
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 51895
Depositing User: Grant, Judith
Date Deposited: 04 Sep 2018 07:58
Last Modified: 07 May 2020 17:00

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