Introduction: Rural populations in Australia have a higher prevalence of obesity, cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes and some cancers. The purpose of the present study was to determine associations between socio-economic characteristics (socio-economic position, income, wealth, debt, occupation, social network diversity), dietary attitudes, and fruit and vegetable intake for people living rurally in Australia.
Method: A community based cross-sectional survey between February and July 2018 of 326 adults (median age 57 years, range 20-90 years, 64.4% female) who attended rural shows in four rural towns in South-East New South Wales (NSW)supplemented with data from patients attending general practices in two additional towns. Participants completed a questionnaire that recorded self-reported daily consumption of fruit and vegetables, a dietary attitude score, and items measuring social and economic circumstances.
Results: Using multivariable regression analysis,the odds of meeting Australian fruit intake guidelines was 13% higher for each unit increase in dietary attitude score (odds ratio [OR] = 1.13, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.03, 1.23). The odds of meeting vegetable intake guidelines were 19% higher for each unit increase in score (OR = 1.19, 95%CI = 1.09, 1.31). Social and economic factors were not independently associated with fruit or vegetable intake. Dietary attitude score in turn, increased on average by 0.07 points (95%CI = 0.01, 0.12) for each additional occupation type among the participants’ social networks. For women who socialised regularly in small towns the score was 1.97 points higher (95%CI = 0.93, 3.00). Men in outer regional areas were more likely to meet vegetable intake guidelines than men in inner regional areas, whereas women in outer regional areas were more likely to meet fruit intake guidelines than women in inner regional areas.
Conclusions: Greater fruit and vegetable intake was predicted by healthier dietary attitudes which in turn were related to social and community connections, rather than economic factors.