Background The relationship between socioeconomic position (SEP) and diet has been examined mainly on the basis of food and nutrient intake. As a complement to this work, we focused on the socioeconomic patterning of food purchasing, as many educational dietary messages emphasize behaviours such as food choice when shopping. Also, the type of food people buy influences the quality of their nutrient intake.
Methods A probability sample of households in Brisbane City, Australia (n = 1003, 66.4% response rate). Data were collected using face-to-face interviews. SEP was measured using education, occupation and household income. Food purchasing was examined on the basis of grocery items (including meat and chicken) and fruit and vegetables.
Results Significant associations were found between each socioeconomic indicator and food purchasing. Persons from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds were less likely to purchase grocery foods that were comparatively high in fibre and low in fat, salt and sugar. The least educated, those employed in blue-collar (manual) occupations and residents of low income households purchased fewer types of fruit and vegetables, and less regularly, than their higher status counterparts.
Conclusions Health promotion efforts aimed at narrowing socioeconomic differences in food purchasing need to be designed and implemented with an understanding of, and a sensitivity to, the barriers to nutritional improvement that difficult life circumstances can impose.