Background. Early adulthood is a period associated with poor diet and rapid weight gain. This is also an age of transition, including environmental, social and lifestyle changes which may be associated with changes in diet. We assess longitudinal associations between four early adulthood life transitions (leaving home, leaving education, entering employment, and cohabitation) and changes in consumption of fruit, vegetables, confectionery and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).
Methods. Participants (n=1100) from the Norwegian Longitudinal Health Behaviour Study, reported data on diet and life transitions on up to eight occasions from age 14 to age 30. Diet data included self-reported intake of fruit, vegetables, confectionary and sugar-sweetened beverages. Growth models were developed to describe changing intake of each of the four diet indicators with age. Fixed-effects regression models assessed associations between the four life transitions and within-individual changes in diet indicators, with adjustment for the remaining transitions and parenthood.
Results. Diet indicators showed quadratic trajectories with age: fruit and vegetable intakes declined from age 14 to ages 23 and 21 respectively, before increasing to age 30. SSB and confectionery intakes increased to age 18, before subsequently decreasing. Leaving the parental home was associated with a decrease in fruit intake of -0.54 times/week (95% confidence interval (95%CI): -0.87;-0.22) and vegetable intake of -0.43 times/week (95%CI: -0.70;-0.15). Leaving education was associated with increases in confectionery (0.33 times/week (95%CI: 0.04;0.62)) and SSB intakes (0.49 times/week (95%CI: 0.10;0.87).
Conclusions. Leaving home and leaving education are associated with decreases in diet quality and may present opportunities for effective diet and obesity intervention. Further study of these transitions is needed to understand the mechanisms mediating associations between life transitions and changes in diet.