Date Approved

4-27-2014

Date Posted

7-21-2015

Degree Type

Campus Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Health Sciences

Committee Member

Judith Brooks, PhD, RD, Chair

Committee Member

Heather Hutchins-Wiese, PhD, RD

Abstract

Background: The Life Course Perspective is a framework that helps one organize and study the effects on overall health, illness, and mortality. It also assists in understanding the relationships of these areas to nutritional habits and overall health, especially how food choices develop in changing social, historical, and temporal contexts. There are seven key components of the Life Course Perspective: trajectories, transitions, turning points, cultural and contextual influences, timing in lives, linked lives, and adaptive strategies. Transitions and turning points are important factors for understanding how diet changes and other health habits occur during an individual's lifespan. Research is needed to analyze how natural diet changes coincide with life changes, so nutrition education interventions can be designed with more successful long-term changes.

Objective: To study how diet changes correlate with life transitions and turning points as part of the framework of the Life Course Perspective.

Methods: This was a qualitative research study that recruited 20 adults with varying gender, age, and income levels as participants using snowball sampling. Interviews were used to gather information by asking participants open-ended questions about past diet history and personal food patterns, as well as changes in food choices, and life experiences. The information was transcribed, and then themes were uncovered using the constant comparative method.

Results: Highest number of diet changes occurred in those in the age range of 18-25 years old, and during the times when participants were undergoing changes, such as moving away from home and marriage. In addition, results showed that overall, men and women had the same number of diet changes during life transitions. However, men experienced more changes after marriage, and women experienced more changes after having children. Also during mid-life, people experienced more diet changes due to health changes such as a diagnosis of cancer, heart disease, or high cholesterol.

Conclusion: A key transition time of life for people when it may be possible to focus on positive health changes and nutrition education to maximize long-term benefits would be from ages 18-25, as well as at mid-life during times of health changes. More research regarding diet changes for those with low-income, those from different cultural backgrounds, and between men and women would be an excellent way to expand our understanding of transitions and their impact on the life course.

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