Low fruit and vegetable consumption is a risk factor for poor health. Studies have shown consumption varies across neighbourhoods, with lower intakes in disadvantaged neighbourhoods. However, findings are inconsistent, suggesting that socio-spatial inequities in diet could be context-specific, highlighting a need for international comparisons across contexts.This study examined variations in fruit and vegetable consumption among adults from neighbourhoods of varying socioeconomic status (SES) across seven countries (Australia, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Scotland, US).
Data from seven existing studies, identified through literature searches and knowledge of co-authors, which collected measures of both neighbourhood-level SES and fruit and vegetable consumption were used. Logistic regression was used to examine associations between neighbourhood-level SES and binary fruit and vegetable consumption separately, adjusting for neighbourhood clustering and age, gender and education. As much as possible, variables were treated in a consistent manner in the analysis for each study to allow the identification of patterns of association within study and to examine differences in the associations across studies.
Adjusted analyses showed evidence of an association between neighbourhood-level SES and fruit consumption in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland, with increased odds of greater fruit intake in higher SES neighbourhoods. In Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Portugal, those residing in higher SES neighbourhoods had increased odds of greater vegetable intake. The other studies showed no evidence of a difference by neighbourhood-level SES.
Acknowledging discrepancies across studies in terms of sampling, measures, and definitions of neighbourhoods, this opportunistic study, which treated data in a consistent manner, suggests that associations between diet and neighbourhood-level socioeconomic status vary across countries. Neighbourhood socioeconomic disadvantage may differentially impact on access to resources in which produce is available in different countries. Neighbourhood environments have the potential to influence behaviour and further research is required to examine the context in which these associations arise.