The diet we choose and consume in daily meals contributes much to ensuring that our bodies are healthy. Poor feeding habits can lead to serious conditions such as malnutrition which in turn causes impaired immunity and high susceptibility to infections. Infections pose a challenge to nutrient absorption in the body thus reducing nutritional benefits in the body. Poor feeding habits can also lead to development of life style diseases such as obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure. Several factors influence the choice of food taken and among them include level of income, education level, cultural and religion factors. The level of income earned is one of the key factors that determine the choice of diet taken among individuals and families and it was the factor that was focused on in this research. The purpose of this study was to determine how the level of income influences the diet taken by individuals. Data was be collected by use of structured questionnaires which was self administered using online survey monkey software that facilitated online questionnaire to the study population which were students at junior, graduate and senior level. Data was analyzed using SPSS, Version 20 and presented graphs, pie-charts and percentages. The results obtained indicated that the choice of diet consumed is to some extent influenced by the level of income earned by an individual.
A healthy diet supplies the body with the nourishment it requires to operate appropriately. It is significant to get the bigger percentage of the everyday calories from fresh fruity foodstuff and vegetables, as well as grains and lean proteins. A healthy diet is essential for good health, because it helps in prevention of diseases and infections. A well balanced diet enables the body to fight numerous diseases and infections. When the body receives sufficient nutrients, the immune system operates well which in turn minimizes the dangers of chronic diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart diseases and also prevents seasonal allergies. Healthy diet also helps in controlling body weight since it helps in minimizing the dangers of their obesity or under nutrition. Unhealthy diet is a kind of diet that contains very high levels of saturated and Trans-fats, cholesterol, sodium, added sugars as well as processed ingredients or it may contain very minimal nutrients. Unbalanced diet normally leads to very low nutrient-to-calorie proportion, which may bring about excessive weight increase and malnutrition plus associated health issues including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease.
Nutrition is a significant element of a healthy way of life; however nutritious foodstuff is not always available to all (white, 2012). Social economic status refers to the elements of the economic as well as the social status that differentiates and characterizes individuals (Doocy&Burnhm, 2005).The definition and evaluation of Social Economic Status with respect to healthy food has been critically examined in recent years. A study by Vlismas, Stavrinos&Panagiotakos (2009) characterized the variables that influence healthy diet as, occupation, race, class, domestic locality, education as well as income. Even though these variables measure the same concept, they cover various aspects of social economic structure that contributes individually to the relationship between social economic status and healthy food (Vlismas, Stavrinos&Panagiotakos, 2009).According to a study by Elsevier Health Sciences (2009), Education is considered to be associated with how individuals choose the kind of foods they eat. As individuals become more learned, research has shown that they are likely to select foodstuffs that have low levels of calories but are very nutritious (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009). Individuals’ income usually determines the availability of economic as well as material resources, and thus has an influence on the dietary quality through making healthy food either more or less expensive and accessible (Vlismas, Stavrinos&Panagiotakos, 2009; Laraia, 2009). According to a study by Benzeval et al (2014), parents’ income influences the kind of diet that the children take.
Although the relationship between social economic status and diet has been studied extensively, very few studies have examined this relationship among young people especially college students. The transformation in living patterns that some college students encounter affects the lifestyle factors especially the kinds of food they choose. The dietary of college students feature some objectionable practices, particularly for those who live away from their families. A study by Kremmyda et al (2008) indicated that, in Greece, the students who lived away from their families made some positive changes concerning their diet such as a cut in whole fat dairy products; however they simultaneously minimized their consumption of fresh fruits, cooked as well as raw vegetables and maximized their sugar as well as fast food intake.
A research carried out in Detroit concerning race and dietary habits compared the nutritional know how and the actual diets black students of the low social economic status and the white students of high social economic status (Fahlman et al, 2010). As component of their learning, these students were given tuition concerning nutrition at school. Based on the this study, it was found out that black students of the low social economic status were not likely to consume fruits, vegetables, daily products as well as grains. The black pupils were found to be less knowledgeable concerning nutrition, and got minimal scores on tests that asked about how much of particular food groups are supposed to be consumed daily and the kind of food groups that are most important. The low social economic status students could also easily distinguish between diet and disease (Fahlman et al, 2010).
The factors of social economic status such as education, occupation, and income among others has an effect on several aspects of access to healthy food including food store accessibility, fast food consumption and the general dietary value of foodstuff consumed. There is a correlation that indicates that the individual’s especially young people and college students that show signs of low social economic status have the poorest accessibility of the sources of healthy food. Conversely, individuals of high social economic status have a greater accessibility nutritionally healthy foodstuff. This clearly explains how the social economic factors influence the accessibility to healthy food (White 2012). According to Powell et al (2004), the geographical nearness to numerous types of food stores plays a significant role in the determination of the kinds of foodstuffs that are available to people of various neighborhoods. The big size foodstuff stores such as the supermarkets have been found to be most likely stock healthy foodstuffs and to offer these foods at minimal prices. Food costs are said to be associated with the diet quality (Powell et al, 2007, p. 189). The probable barriers of getting numerous healthy foods as a result of unavailability of local food stores like the supermarkets are likely to have an adverse impact on dietary patterns and cause the risk of obesity. With reference to suburbanization of supermarkets in a research carried out in London, Larsen and Gillliland (2008), found out that while there are many large supermarkets within the suburban lands, the small size grocers in some of the older central city neighborhoods seem to be disappear quickly, leaving probable foodstuff deserts in their wake. Larsen and Gilliland also found out that a small client base that consists of consumers considered to be of low social economic status in the central town areas drives, bigger and more costly supermarkets to relocate to the suburban areas of more wealth so as to create a client base of individuals who have more cash to spend on foodstuff (Larsen & Gilliland, 2008). Studies have shown that food stores normally set food prices at levels that are reasonably priced to occupants of nearby neighborhoods. The neighborhoods that consists of occupants that are considered to be of high social economic status tend to have greater accessibility of supermarkets and food stores with slightly greater variations of fresh food as compared to those of low social economic status (Larsen & Gilliland, 2008).
Education is another key social economic factor that influences decisions that concern nutrition. In most cases, individuals who are highly educated, especially those with educational levels that are greater than a grade school education are more likely to have been equipped with information concerning nutritional necessities. It is also probably that in such a situation, education is also independently linked an individual’s economic status. This increases the probability that individuals who are more educated also have more money, which implies that they have accessibility of healthier food (Elsevier Health Sciences, 2009). According to Konttinen et al (2013), individuals with low education levels as well as income have minimal healthy dietary habits, partly for the reason that their higher priority for costs and familiarity, and their less priority for health as a motivation for food purchase. The less educated individuals with low earnings usually tend to consume more energy dense foodstuff, and are associated with poor health habits, while the higher social economic status counterparts have a greater fruit as well as vegetable intake (De Agostini, 2005). This relation between the social economic status and the healthy diet not fully recognized, however investigation of the motives that underlie the choice of foodstuff provides more insight. Based on such investigations it has been found out that education groups can differ in the value they place on food choice motives and that this underlying association, in turn may affect individuals’ dietary behavior considering the consumption of fruits, vegetables as well as energy dense foodstuff (Konttinen et al, 2013).
This study aims at examining how social economic status affects the diet of young people, especially college students. The specific aims are (1)To describe how individuals ‘income level and education is associated with their dietary habits ;( 2) To compare food choices behaviors of the individuals of high income level and the individuals of low income level; and (3) Outline the relationship between the level of income and the affordability of food stores within an area. Our hypothesis was that individuals with higher income level have more likely of accessing healthy and nutritious food as compared to individuals with lower income level.
Survey monkey method was used during data collection. This method of data collection involves use of free online survey software which facilitates provision of online questionnaire. Here a cross-section design was used where information was obtained from respondents at one point in time from the sample of the selected study population
Students of junior, college and university level were used as the study population. The study population included both male and females. The simple random sampling technique was used where the respondents were chosen purely by chance. The participants in this study were allowed to apply and the first 83 applicants were given the first priority.
After identification of the study population, data was collected using semi-structured questionnaire which was online self administered in that the respondents read for themselves the questions in the questionnaire while recording their responses in it. A total of eighty three students from both junior and senior level were interviewed. Each of the questionnaires was then provided with a code and the time during which the information in each of them was collected was recorded. The data in these questionnaires was then entered in Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS) software Version 20 for analysis.
The tool which was used during this research was the semi-structured questionnaire. Below is a sample of the questionnaire that was used to collect the data
Sample questionnaire instructions
Please provide the information of the questions asked below. Your response will be highly appreciated.
- What is you gender……………………………………..
- What is you age………………………………….
- What is your academic standing……………………………….
- How many times do you eat fast food in a week………………………
- Do you cook more than you eat out………………………….
- How many minutes does it take you to get to the grocery……………….
- Which kind of healthy food do you like………………………………………
- How much do spend on one meal……………………………………………….
- How much dollars do you earn in a month……………………………………………..
- How do you access information concerning healthy food……………………………….
The data collected using questionnaire was entered in Statistical Package for the Social Sciences software (SPSS, Version 20) for analysis in order to generate descriptive statistics as well as correlation factors observed during the study. The analysis process in this case was aimed at allowing the researchers to understand the correlation between the income earned and the choice of the diet. The correlation analysis was used to compare to which level the income earned influence the habit of the diets taken. The SPSS software enabled in generation of percentages of different respondents from the both the males and females who were interviewed. The percentages obtained were then used to draw the graphs and pie charts for the presentation of the results.