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Constraints on food choices of women in the UK with lower educational attainment

  • M Barker (a1), WT Lawrence (a1), TC Skinner (a2), CO Haslam (a3), SM Robinson (a1), HM Inskip (a1), BM Margetts (a1), AA Jackson (a1), DJP Barker (a1) and C Cooper (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 December 2008

Women of lower educational attainment have less balanced and varied diets than women of higher educational attainment. The diets of women are vital to the long-term health of their offspring. The present study aimed to identify factors that influence the food choices of women with lower educational attainment and how women could be helped to improve those choices.


We conducted eight focus group discussions with women of lower educational attainment to identify these factors. We contrasted the results of these discussions with those from three focus group discussions with women of higher educational attainment.


Southampton, UK.


Forty-two white Caucasian women of lower educational attainment and fourteen of higher educational attainment aged 18 to 44 years.


The dominant theme in discussions with women of lower educational attainment was their sense that they lacked control over food choices for themselves and their families. Partners and children exerted a high degree of control over which foods were bought and prepared. Women’s perceptions of the cost of healthy food, the need to avoid waste, being trapped at home surrounded by opportunities to snack, and having limited skill and experience with food, all contributed to their sense they lacked control over their own and their family’s food choices.


An intervention to improve the food choices of women with lower educational attainment needs to increase their sense of control over their diet and the foods they buy. This might include increasing their skills in food preparation.

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