To influence dietary behaviors, more insight in food choice motivations is necessary. This study identified what motivations older adults have to eat healthily and investigated to what extent these motivations are particular to specific subgroups according to socio-economic position and other demographic, lifestyle and health characteristics.
We used data from 1,050 older Dutch adults who participated in the Longitudinal Aging Study Amsterdam (65-80 years, independently living, normal cognitive status). Motivations to eat healthily and characteristics were measured with a self-reported questionnaire. We used logistic regression analyses to estimate odds ratios (OR) and 95% CI for the association between subgroups and motivations to eat healthily.
The most reported motivations to eat healthily were: “feeling fit” (51.7%), “current health” (49.7%) and “body weight” (39.2%). Multivariate analyses showed that older adults with chronic diseases (≥2 vs. no chronic disease OR: 4.41, 95% CI: 2.31-8.44) and a poor self-rated health (poor vs. good OR: 2.31, 95% CI: 1.22-3.73) were more likely to report “current disease” as a motivation to eat healthily. Groups from lower socio-economic positions were less likely to report “to prevent diseases” (low income vs. high OR: 0.52, 95% CI: 0.32-0.86, low education vs. high OR: 0.43, 95% CI: 0.27-0.70) and older adults with obesity were less likely to report “current health” (obese vs. normal weight OR: 0.47, 95% CI: 0.32-0.69) as motivations to eat healthily.
Multivariate analyses showed that the presence of a disease in older adults is an important motivation for them to eat healthily, which might indicate that older adults with health problems are aware of the link between their disease and nutrition. Older adults from lower socio-economic positions or those with obesity require a specific approach because disease prevention seems to be of lesser importance for these groups, even though a healthy diet could improve their health. Future research should investigate the reasons behind the motives of low socio-economic position and obese older adults.