Diet in transition : the effect of leaving home on the diet and nutritional status of young adults
Dietary habits change over the life-course and might be profoundly affected by changes in lifestyle. The transition from living as a dependent in the family home to independent living is a crucial stage in most young people's lives, and the initial diet and lifestyle choices adopted following leaving home may form the basis of dietary habits and health status in adulthood. Many young people leave home to pursue further education, begin employment and/or co-habit/start a family. However, some leave home involuntarily or due to family conflict, becoming homeless. The circumstances of a young person's transition into independent living are likely to have an impact on their health behaviour and dietary habits. The aim of this study was therefore to investigate the diet and lifestyles of young people living at home or independently. In particular, the diet and nutritional status of young adults at various stages of independent living (students, homeless and working young adults) was investigated. Phase 1 of the study investigated the differences in diet and health behaviour of young people living independently or in the family home (n=219). Phases 2,3 and 4 investigated the diet and nutritional status of (phase 2) students during their first year of study (n=58), (phase 3) homeless young adults residing temporarily in hostels (n=24) and (phase 4) working young adults who have lived independently for more than 4 years (n=33). The study was based in Liverpool, and volunteers were recruited largely from Merseyside, although the `snowball' recruitment technique resulted in some volunteers from Leicestershire, the Midlands, Surrey and Kent. An age range of 18-30 years was used for this study. This was in order to include both young people who had recently left home (who were likely to be at the lower end of the age range), and those who had lived independently for more than four years (who were likely to be at the higher end of the age range). The dietary habits of working young adults, who had lived independently for more than four years, were closest to recommended nutritional intakes. Students and the homeless generally consumed diets that were high in fat and sugar, and low in fibre. Alcohol intakes were high amongst male and female students and female working adults. Anthropometric measurements (height, weight, BMI and skinfolds) were comparable between students and working young adults.