BACKGROUND: poor diet quality is common among older people, but little is known about influences on food choice, including the role of psychosocial factors at this age.
OBJECTIVE: to identify psychosocial correlates of diet quality in a community-dwelling population of men and women aged 59-73 years; to describe relationships with change in diet quality over 10 years.
DESIGN: Longitudinal cohort, Hertfordshire Cohort Study (HCS).
SUBJECTS: HCS participants assessed at baseline (1998-2003: 1,048 men, 862 women); 183 men and 189 women re-assessed in 2011.
METHODS: diet was assessed by administered food frequency questionnaire; diet scores were calculated to describe diet quality at baseline and follow-up. A range of psychosocial factors (social support, social network, participation in leisure activities, depression and anxiety, sense of control) were assessed by questionnaire.
RESULTS: at baseline, better diet quality was related to a range of social factors, including increased confiding/emotional social support (men and women), practical support (men) and a larger social network (women) (all P < 0.05). For both men and women, greater participation in social and cognitive leisure activities was related to better diet quality (P < 0.005). There were few associations between measured psychosocial factors at baseline and change in diet score over 10 years, in the follow-up sub-group. However, greater participation in leisure activities, especially cognitive activities, at baseline was associated with smaller declines in diet quality over the 10-year follow-up period for both men (P = 0.017) and women (P = 0.014).
CONCLUSIONS: in community-dwelling older adults, a range of social factors, that includes greater participation in leisure activities, were associated with diets of better quality.