In many high-income countries people living in regional (rural) areas have higher rates of chronic disease compared to people living in urban areas. Food purchasing behaviour provides a potential pathway linking residential location with dietary intake and health outcomes. This study examined the relationship between geographic location and food expenditure on a range of foods.
Data from the 2015–2016 Australian Household Expenditure Survey (number of households = 9827) were used to examine weekly household food expenditure and proportion of total food expenditure on 14 categories of food items. Foods were classified using the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Two-part models and zero–one inflated beta regression models were used to assess the association between geographic area and food expenditure.
Average proportion of total food expenditure on fruit was estimated to be more for households located in major cities compared to households located in inner and outer regional areas. Households located in inner and outer regional areas allocated less to fresh fruit, fish and meals out compared to households in major cities. Households located in inner regional areas allocated a greater proportion of their food budget to sweet cakes, biscuits, puddings, desserts, chocolate and ice-cream compared to households in major cities and outer regional areas.
The geographic patterns in food purchasing suggest those in regional areas may be at risk of diets less aligned with healthy guidelines. Given the findings of this study suggesting geographic differences in food purchasing, further research is warranted to enhance contextual understanding of food purchasing behaviours in regional areas.
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The researchers received approval from the Australian Bureau of Statistics to use the 2015–16 Household Expenditure Survey basic CURF (Confidentialised Unit Record Files) and detailed microdata. Data were accessed onsite from the ABS DataLab. All findings are based on the use of ABS microdata. Analysis of this secondary data source received an exemption from ethical review from Deakin University Human Research Ethics Committee.
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This work was supported by a Deakin University, Faculty of Health Postgraduate Research Scholarship to FD.
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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Dangerfield, F., Lamb, K.E., Oostenbach, L.H. et al. Urban-regional patterns of food purchasing behaviour: a cross-sectional analysis of the 2015–2016 Australian Household Expenditure Survey. Eur J Clin Nutr (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41430-020-00746-9