Hobbies in old age linked to better diet

What we eat affects our our own health now, in later life, and that of our unborn children

Older people who take part in leisure activities have been found to have a better quality diet, potentially informing practices in healthcare and support services.

Poor diet quality is common among older people, putting them at greater risk of developing health problems. However, little is known about the social factors that influence their food choices.

Researchers at the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre have published research in Age and Ageing showing that having hobbies makes a person more likely to eat a better quality diet.

Diet assessment

In order to assess their diet,  a food frequency questionnaire for each participant was used to calculate a diet score, based on their consumption of 24 different types of food.

Those who regularly ate fruit, vegetables, wholegrain cereals and oily fish received high scores, whereas those who ate lots of white bread, added sugar, full-fat dairy products, chips and processed meat received lower scores.

Social influence

The participants also filled in a questionnaire, which asked questions related to the size of their social network of friends and family, emotional wellbeing and participation in leisure activities.

Overall, participants who spent more time on hobbies, particularly those that involved social interaction with others, were found to have better quality diets.

These results shine a light on the social factors that contribute to poor diet in later life, and help identify those most at risk, enabling better care and support for older adults. 

Posted on Wednesday 9 November 2016