Public ‘don’t want to be badgered’ says healthy eating research

YouGov SixthSense research has shed light on the recent spat between UK health minister Andrew Lansley and Jamie Oliver.
Comments made by Lansley at a conference in Brighton were critical of the ‘Jamie Oliver’ approach to increasing public awareness of health and fitness. Instead, the minister advocated an ‘evidence-based’ solution to the nation’s health problems. Commenting on current methods of addressing obesity and public health generally, Lansley said: “If we are constantly lecturing people and trying to tell them what to do, we will actually find that we undermine and are counterproductive in the results that we achieve.”
YouGov research, however, provides food for thought for those on both sides of the debate. At present, only 10% of UK adults claim that they are influenced in what they eat by government healthy eating campaigns. This figure drops to 8% for the less affluent members of society. Celebrity and media influence is more considerable, with almost a quarter of respondents (21%) influenced in their food choices by TV documentaries, while 31% look to cookery programmes for ideas on what to eat. The overriding factor in UK dietary habits appears to be friends and family, with 39% citing the advice of a friend or loved one as having the most influence on what they eat.
There is more evidence throughout the report that the government’s influence is often less than it might have hoped. For example, only 13% currently meet the government’s five-a-day quota for fruit and vegetable consumption.
“If the government wishes to provide a viable alternative to Jamie Oliver, then it would be wise to re-examine its own record thus far,” observes James McCoy, research director for YouGov SixthSense. “There is considerable evidence in our report which suggests government influence is often marginal.”
Reading deeper into the report, however, it appears that the minister’s protestations do carry some weight. Many complain that the society-wide drive to be healthier can be overbearing, with 1 in 3 saying that there is a lot of fuss about what you can and can’t eat these days, while 15% of UK adults say that they feel that they are on a perpetual diet.
“It is difficult to strike the right balance,” agrees McCoy. “Although it is important to inform the public about the benefits of healthy eating, it is equally important that both government and media refrain from badgering unnecessarily.”

Related content

Leave a reply

Food and Drink Technology