Diet Quality and Neighborhood Environment in the Atlantic Partnership for Tomorrow’s Health Project

Authors: Kaitlyn Gilham, Qianqian Gu, Trevor JB Dummer, John J Spinelli, Rachel A Murphy 


An understanding of relationships between different constructs of the neighbourhood environment and diet quality is needed to inform public health interventions. This study investigated associations between material deprivation, social deprivation and population density with diet quality in a cohort of 19,973 Canadian adults aged 35 to 69 years within the Atlantic PATH cohort study. Diet quality, a metric of how well diet conforms to recommendations was determined from a 24-item food frequency questionnaire. Neighbourhood environment data were derived from dissemination area level Census data. Two deprivation indices were evaluated: material and social deprivation, which reflect access to goods and amenities and social relationships. Multi-level models were used to estimate relationships (mean differences and 95% CI) between neighbourhood environment and diet quality, adjusting for covariates. Mean diet quality was lower in the most socially deprived neighbourhoods compared to the least socially deprived: −0.56, 95% CI (−0.88, −0.25). Relationships between diet quality and population density differed between urban and rural areas (p-interaction < 0.0001). In rural areas, diet quality was higher in intermediate-density neighbourhoods: 0.54, 95% CI (0.05, 1.03). In urban areas, diet quality was lower in intermediate-density and the most-dense neighbourhoods: −0.84, 95% CI (−1.28, −0.40) and −0.72, 95% CI (−1.20, −0.25). Our findings suggest socially deprived and high-density neighbourhoods are associated with lower diet quality and possible urban-rural differences in neighbourhood environment-diet quality relationships. Additional studies are needed to determine the temporal nature of relationships and whether differences in diet quality are meaningful.