Perceptions on healthy eating, physical activity and lifestyle advice: opportunities for adapting lifestyle interventions to individuals with low socioeconomic status

A.J. Bukman*, D. Teuscher, E.J.M. Feskens, M.A. van Baak, A. Meershoek, R.J. Renes

*Corresponding author for this work

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BACKGROUND: Individuals with low socioeconomic status (SES) are generally less well reached through lifestyle interventions than individuals with higher SES. The aim of this study was to identify opportunities for adapting lifestyle interventions in such a way that they are more appealing for individuals with low SES. To this end, the study provides insight into perspectives of groups with different socioeconomic positions regarding their current eating and physical activity behaviour; triggers for lifestyle change; and ways to support lifestyle change. METHODS: Data were gathered in semi-structured focus group interviews among low SES (four groups) and high SES (five groups) adults. The group size varied between four and nine participants. The main themes discussed were perceptions and experiences of healthy eating, physical activity and lifestyle advice. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and a thematic approach was used to analyse the data. RESULTS: In general, three key topics were identified, namely: current lifestyle is logical for participants given their personal situation; lifestyle change is prompted by feedback from their body; and support for lifestyle change should include individually tailored advice and could profit from involving others. The perceptions of the low SES participants were generally comparable to the perceptions shared by the high SES participants. Some perceptions were, however, especially shared in the low SES groups. Low SES participants indicated that their current eating behaviour was sometimes affected by cost concerns. They seemed to be especially motivated to change their lifestyle when they experienced health complaints, but were rather hesitant to change their lifestyle for preventive purposes. Regarding support for lifestyle change, low SES participants preferred to receive advice in a group rather than on their own. For physical activities, groups should preferably consist of persons of the same age, gender or physical condition. CONCLUSIONS: To motivate individuals with low SES to change their lifestyle, it may be useful to (visually) raise their awareness of their current weight or health status. Lifestyle interventions targeting individuals with low SES should take possible cost concerns into account and should harness the supportive effect of (peer) groups.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1036
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2014


  • Socioeconomic status
  • Perceptions on lifestyle
  • Physical activity
  • Healthy eating
  • Focus groups
  • FOOD

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