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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.

Original publication




Journal article


Age ageing

Publication Date





277 - 283


UK, ageing, diet, older people, social relationships, Age Factors, Aged, Aging, Choice Behavior, Cognition, Diet, Emotions, England, Female, Food Preferences, Habits, Humans, Leisure Activities, Longitudinal Studies, Male, Middle Aged, Nutrition Assessment, Nutritional Status, Social Behavior, Social Participation, Surveys and Questionnaires