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The social disorganization of eating: a neglected determinant of the Australian epidemic of overweight/obesity.
BMC Public Health 2019; 19(Suppl 2):454BP

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Over the last 150 years, advanced economies have seen the burden of disease shift to non-communicable diseases. The risk factors for these diseases are often co-morbidities associated with unhealthy weight. The prevalence of overweight/obesity among adults in the advanced countries of the English-speaking world is currently more than two-thirds of the adult population. However, while much attention has concentrated on changes in diet that might have provoked this rapid increase in unhealthy weight, changes in patterns of eating have received little attention.

METHODS

This article examines a sequence of large-scale, time use surveys in urban Australia stretching from 1974 to 2006. The earliest survey in 1974 (conducted by the Cities Commission) was limited to respondents aged between 18 and 69 years, while the later surveys (by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) included all adult (15 years of age or over) living private dwellings. Since time use surveys capture every activity in a day, they contain much information about mealtimes and the patterns of eating. This includes duration of eating, number of eating occasions and the timing of eating. Inferential statistics were used to test the statistical significance of these changes and the size of the effects.

RESULTS

The eating patterns of urban Australian adults have changed significantly over a 32-year period and the magnitude of this change is non-trivial. Total average eating time as main activity has diminished by about a third, as have eating occasions, affecting particularly luncheon and evening meals. However, there is evidence that eating as secondary activity that accompanies another activity is now almost as frequent as eating at mealtimes. Moreover, participants seem not to report it.

CONCLUSIONS

Contemporary urban Australians are spending less time in organized shared meals. These changes have occurred the over same period during which there has been a public health concern about the prevalence of unhealthy weight. Preliminary indications are that societies that emphasize eating as a commensal, shared activity through maintaining definite, generous lunch breaks and prioritizing eating at mealtimes, achieve better public health outcomes. This has implications for a strategy of health promotion, but to be sure of this we need to study countries with these more socially organized eating patterns.

Authors+Show Affiliations

Sociology, BCSS, University of New England, Armidale, Australia. mbittman@une.edu.au.Department of Global Health, Australian National University, Canberra, Australia.Department of English, University of Sydney, Sydney, Australia.Centre for Time Use Research, Sociology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.

Pub Type(s)

Journal Article

Language

eng

PubMed ID

31159781

Citation

Bittman, Michael, et al. "The Social Disorganization of Eating: a Neglected Determinant of the Australian Epidemic of Overweight/obesity." BMC Public Health, vol. 19, no. Suppl 2, 2019, p. 454.
Bittman M, Cleary E, Wilkinson-Bibicos C, et al. The social disorganization of eating: a neglected determinant of the Australian epidemic of overweight/obesity. BMC Public Health. 2019;19(Suppl 2):454.
Bittman, M., Cleary, E., Wilkinson-Bibicos, C., & Gershuny, J. (2019). The social disorganization of eating: a neglected determinant of the Australian epidemic of overweight/obesity. BMC Public Health, 19(Suppl 2), p. 454. doi:10.1186/s12889-019-6768-3.
Bittman M, et al. The Social Disorganization of Eating: a Neglected Determinant of the Australian Epidemic of Overweight/obesity. BMC Public Health. 2019 Jun 3;19(Suppl 2):454. PubMed PMID: 31159781.
* Article titles in AMA citation format should be in sentence-case
TY - JOUR T1 - The social disorganization of eating: a neglected determinant of the Australian epidemic of overweight/obesity. AU - Bittman,Michael, AU - Cleary,Eimear, AU - Wilkinson-Bibicos,Charlotte, AU - Gershuny,Jonathan, Y1 - 2019/06/03/ PY - 2019/6/5/entrez PY - 2019/6/5/pubmed PY - 2019/6/5/medline KW - Eating occasions KW - Mealtimes KW - Mindless eating KW - Social organization of eating SP - 454 EP - 454 JF - BMC public health JO - BMC Public Health VL - 19 IS - Suppl 2 N2 - BACKGROUND: Over the last 150 years, advanced economies have seen the burden of disease shift to non-communicable diseases. The risk factors for these diseases are often co-morbidities associated with unhealthy weight. The prevalence of overweight/obesity among adults in the advanced countries of the English-speaking world is currently more than two-thirds of the adult population. However, while much attention has concentrated on changes in diet that might have provoked this rapid increase in unhealthy weight, changes in patterns of eating have received little attention. METHODS: This article examines a sequence of large-scale, time use surveys in urban Australia stretching from 1974 to 2006. The earliest survey in 1974 (conducted by the Cities Commission) was limited to respondents aged between 18 and 69 years, while the later surveys (by the Australian Bureau of Statistics) included all adult (15 years of age or over) living private dwellings. Since time use surveys capture every activity in a day, they contain much information about mealtimes and the patterns of eating. This includes duration of eating, number of eating occasions and the timing of eating. Inferential statistics were used to test the statistical significance of these changes and the size of the effects. RESULTS: The eating patterns of urban Australian adults have changed significantly over a 32-year period and the magnitude of this change is non-trivial. Total average eating time as main activity has diminished by about a third, as have eating occasions, affecting particularly luncheon and evening meals. However, there is evidence that eating as secondary activity that accompanies another activity is now almost as frequent as eating at mealtimes. Moreover, participants seem not to report it. CONCLUSIONS: Contemporary urban Australians are spending less time in organized shared meals. These changes have occurred the over same period during which there has been a public health concern about the prevalence of unhealthy weight. Preliminary indications are that societies that emphasize eating as a commensal, shared activity through maintaining definite, generous lunch breaks and prioritizing eating at mealtimes, achieve better public health outcomes. This has implications for a strategy of health promotion, but to be sure of this we need to study countries with these more socially organized eating patterns. SN - 1471-2458 UR - https://www.unboundmedicine.com/medline/citation/31159781/The_social_disorganization_of_eating:_a_neglected_determinant_of_the_Australian_epidemic_of_overweight/obesity L2 - https://bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6768-3 DB - PRIME DP - Unbound Medicine ER -