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, but homeless