ACSPRI Conferences, RC33 Eighth International Conference on Social Science Methodology

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Domestic food-safety and the older consumer: A segmentation analysis - Using Cluster Analysis to quantitatively derive typologies of the older consumer using lifestyle and food-safety knowledge and behavioural data

Helen Elizabeth Kendall, Sharron Kuznesof, Mary Brennan

Building: Law Building
Room: Breakout 1 - Law Building, Room 024
Date: 2012-07-10 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM
Last modified: 2012-06-19


The Food Standards Agency (FSA) and Health Protection Agency (HPA) in the UK has noted considerable increases in sporadic cases of food-borne illness, the majority of which has been isolated to adult’s aged 60 and over. The most significant and worrying increase have been associated with the pathogens Campylobacter and Listeria monocytogenes, both of which can cause serious illness/death in older adults. The lack of clear causal associations for these increases required the FSA and HPA to further investigate what may be responsible for the rise in incidence of these pathogens amongst older adults. After some preliminary work (FSA SSRC, 2009), the domestic food safety related practices of older adults were identified as a potential cause for the increase. The research reported here was funded to specifically explore these practices in more detail. Using the North East of England as the geographical focus for the research, a mixed method approach was chosen using a complement of traditional and innovative research methods. A representative sample, collected between Oct 2010-March 2011, of 213 independently residing older adults was collected and analysed using SPSS 17.0. A questionnaire was designed to profile the sample based on their knowledge of, and reported practices associated with, domestic food safety. This profiling was conducted using both Factor and Cluster analysis.

By assessing the emerging clusters against a wide range of socio-demographic characteristics, it was possible to build up a clearer picture of the diversity of experience and circumstances of older adults living in the North East of England. These insights were combined with base line behavioural and attitudinal measures about the food and food safety practices of these older adults. A 3-cluster solution was derived, and it provided the basis for detailed narrative typologies of the older UK food consumer to be constructed. This Application of cluster analysis made it possible to begin to illustrate the diversity amongst over 60s in the UK. It also provided an informed and rich platform from which to select participants for (n=10) the second stage of the research, that involves ethnographic research targeted at exploring in detail, and through multiple methods, the domestic food safety practices of the chosen respondents.

The range of different types of older adults identified reinforces the hypothesis that this population segment are heterogeneous with respect to their living and health circumstances, social networks and their knowledge and practices with respect to food and domestic food safety. As such, the risk of illness as a consequence of food-borne illness is not linear. Not all adults over the age of 60 will suffer the same levels of vulnerability to food-borne illness; however, the way in which they encounter risk is shown to be the basis on which they diverge.