Talking about food: exploring attitudes towards food, health and obesity with adults with learning disabilities

Williams, Victoria Angharad (2012) Talking about food: exploring attitudes towards food, health and obesity with adults with learning disabilities. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Obesity and being overweight are known contributors to ill health and are subject to growing concern from health professionals and policy makers. The prevalence of obese and overweight adults is higher in the learning disability population than in the general population for reasons that are unclear. Food choice is influenced by many social and environmental factors. Constructions of health may also affect food choice, influencing the extent to which individuals believe it is worth acting upon healthy eating messages.

This thesis examines the attitudes towards food of adults with learning disabilities and the meanings they attached to health, to healthy eating and to food. Using data gathered from interviews with 23 people with learning disabilities in the Greater Glasgow area, it demonstrates the multiple meanings ascribed to food and the many barriers to food choice people with a learning disability experience. The data found that participants held complex, often competing ideas about health. Many did not believe that it was something over which they could exert any meaningful control and this negatively impacted on their actions to improve their health.

Choice and control were found to be the two most important elements in construction of food choice. Although almost all participants had a good basic knowledge of healthy eating guidelines, decisions about food and food choice were often taken by support workers, parents, family members or other gatekeepers. This lack of choice and control over food was reflected in their opportunities in their wider lives and impacted on their attitudes towards their general health. Participants became disengaged from the processes associated with food and some believed that they were not capable of developing their skills or implementing their dietary knowledge. Further, health was viewed as being subject to luck or the intervention of others. Without a sense of self-efficacy in their wider lives, people with learning disabilities might struggle to make positive changes for their health.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Food, obesity, learning disability, health, disability, disability studies, psycho emotional disabilism, social model
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Watson, Prof. Nick and Pearson, Dr. Charlotte
Date of Award: 2012
Depositing User: Ms Victoria A Williams
Unique ID: glathesis:2012-3293
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 02 Apr 2012
Last Modified: 21 Aug 2018 11:07

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