Relationship between Socio-Demographic Factors and Eating Practices in a Multicultural Society


There is currently a dearth of information pertaining to socio-demographic factors and eating practices in a multicultural country like Mauritius. This study was therefore undertaken to probe the different eating practices among an adult sample population in Mauritius in an endeavor to establish significant relationships, if any, with common socio-demographic and socio-economic factors. A self-designed questionnaire, (randomly distributed to n = 387 adults), pertaining to socio-demographic variables, vegetarianism, breakfast patterns, eating out of home meals (OHMs), food frequency questions and dieting practices were asked. Males (21 - 40 yrs) had a significantly (p < 0.05) higher consumption of OHM at lunch. Higher mean frequencies of consuming OHMs were found amid specific groups (e.g. amongst professionals as compared to each of manual workers, unemployed, retired and self-employed) which also depicted significantly lower percentages of adhesion to the WHO recommended daily intake of vegetables. Oily foods were frequently consumed by males (41 - 60 yrs) whereas none of the socio-demographic factors assessed revealed a significant relationship (p > 0.05) to adherence to the recommendations for the consumption of fish. The socio-demographic factors most influential towards eating practices were gender, age and socio-economic status represented by education and occupation. In conclusion, relationships recorded in the present study were comparable to Western eating practices and the availability of certain foods has compelled Mauritians to develop its own and unique eating patterns which can be of relevance in providing accurate health targets for future nutrition interventions in Mauritius.

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S. Krige, F. Mahomoodally, A. Subratty and D. Ramasawmy, "Relationship between Socio-Demographic Factors and Eating Practices in a Multicultural Society," Food and Nutrition Sciences, Vol. 3 No. 3, 2012, pp. 286-295. doi: 10.4236/fns.2012.33042.

1. Introduction

Sociodemographics, the study of people in society [1] include factors such as gender, age [2], household income and education level [3] among other factors. In society, there are different levels of education and income, and thus a plethora of social economic status (SES) exists. Sociologists refer to the classification of society into different classes as social stratification and due to which there are inequalities that exist in society [4]. These factors have also been documented to have an impact on lifestyle practices, including diet, which in turn determine health. This is why diet is included among the lifestyle practices which determine health [5].

Eating practices are important factors to consider in public health nutrition as people eat every day and throughout the day. Therefore, observing dietary practices may give an idea of the nutritional status of individuals in the population. In addition, certain eating practices may predict future health problems, such as high fast food consumption and obesity as in US [6] .Other practices may be a form of prophylactic for certain diseases such as postulated in the French paradox. Studying eating practices within a population is complex due to the multiplicity of different factors which are involved in the process of choosing, acquiring, preparing and consuming food as demonstrated by Baranowski [7].

While the number of non communicable diseases (NCD) is on the rise, where-by Mauritius has not been spared [8] there is a continuous need to amass updated information on the underlying nutritional causes with respect to these diseases. Worldwide, there have been significant relationships found between socio-demographic profiles and certain eating practices. For instance, Europeans from lower SESs tend to eat less healthily than those from higher socioeconomic background [5]. In addition, high income has been shown to increase BMI [9] and concern for food safety has been related to socio-demographic factors such as ethnicity, age and gender [10].

In view of the fact that there is a dearth of data pertaining to socio-demographic factors and eating practices in a multicultural country like Mauritius, this research was therefore designed and geared to gather relevant information on the topic. We also aimed at investigating the different eating practices in a representative adult sample population of Mauritius and to establish significant relationships and/or differences, if any, between these eating practices and common socio-demographic and socio-economic factors.

2. Methods

2.1. Questionnaire Design

The tool used to conduct the survey was a self designed questionnaire which was divided into different parts and adapted from Siega Riz, et al. [11], and Anderson and Morris [1]. A validated food frequency table was also inserted that covered questions about the 11 major food categories and the answers as described previously [5].

2.2. Sampling

A pilot study of about 20 questionnaires was conducted and appropriate changes were made accordingly. The study conducted was a cross sectional study of the Mauritian population amongst adults aged 21 years and above. According to the recent Mauritius Central Statistic Office census, this population size totalled to 831,482. Based on Krejcie and Morgan, [12] a sample size of 384 was needed to represent a cross-section of the population at a 95% confidence level, a ±5% margin of error and a 0.5 degree of variability. The sampling was conducted randomly at different locations of the Island, both urban and rural.

2.3. Data and Statistical Analysis

Data collected was analysed using SPSS version 16.0 and graphs were generated using Microsoft excel version 2007. χ2 tests, t-test and ANOVA were performed and p values of <0.05 were considered significant.

3. Results

3.1. Eating Home-Made versus Out of Home Meals

The information gathered concerning the types of meals consumed at lunch and dinner was grouped into two categories: home-made meals and out of home meals (OHMs). The numbers of days per week were categorized into three groups: “never”, “3 times per week or less” and “more than 3 times per week”. The resulting percentages are depicted in Figure 1.

Data presented in Figure 1 demonstrates that the majority of respondents reported “never or seldom” eating OHMs both for lunch (52%) and dinner (69%). Eating out for dinner “4 - 7 times per week” was five times less than eating out for lunch at the same frequency. Likewise, eating out “1 - 3 times per week” was greater for lunch than for dinner. Hence, in general, a higher frequency of OHMs for lunch was reported (33% and 15%) as compared to dinner (26% and 5%).

Table 1 shows that there was significant difference for both gender and place of residence with respect to the consumption of OHMs. The mean consumption of OHMs was higher in men than women at lunch and higher amongst rural than urban inhabitants at dinner. It was also found that the mean consumption of OHMs was significantly higher in young adults than in middle aged and elders, for both lunch and dinner. The mean consumption of OHMs was significantly different in tertiary educated respondents only for lunch. And significantly different to secondary educated respondents for dinner; tertiary educated respondents having the higher means. There was a significant difference in the mean consumption of OHMs amongst professionals as compared to each of manual workers, unemployed, retired and self-employed respondents.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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