PURPOSE: To examine the underlying reasons for the positive relation between socio-economic status (SES) and the diet quality of adolescents.
METHODS: In 2081 adolescents (12.5-17.5 years) of the European HELENA study, a continuous variable on diet quality via 2-day 24-h recalls was available. SES was reflected by parental education, parental occupation and family affluence. Mediation by several psychosocial determinants was tested: self-efficacy, availability at school and home, social support, barriers, benefits, awareness and some self-reported influencers (parents, school, taste, health, friends, food readily available, easy preparation, hunger, price and habits). Multiple mediation analyses were adjusted for age, sex and country.
RESULTS: The availability of soft drinks and fruit at home, social support, parental influence, barriers, price influence, taste influence, health influence and food being readily available were significant mediators. The multiple mediation indirect effect accounted for 23-64% of the total effect. Both occupation and education and both maternal and paternal factors could be explained by the mediation. The unavailability of soft drinks was the strongest mediator (17-44% of the total effect).
CONCLUSION: Up to 64% of the positive relation between SES and the diet quality in adolescence could be explained by several healthy eating determinants. Focusing on these factors in low-SES populations can minimize social inequalities in diet and health by improving the diet of these specific adolescents.