In all of these, communities with the highest indicators of social and economic advantage had strong correlations with high rates of consumption. In other words, broadly speaking the wealthier areas were found to have more fibre- and citrus-rich diets.
Caffeine intake was also found to be greatest among higher socioeconomic groups, specifically in areas designated as high rent, which was backed with other studies which found espresso and ground coffee drinks were most frequently consumed by those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. The report’s authors suggest that this is both a factor of having the financial ability to fork out for a daily coffee or two and a culture of coffee consumption among wealthier Australians.
On the other end of the socioeconomic spectrum, in particular the drugs tramadol (an opioid-based pain killer), atenolol (blood pressure medicine) and pregabalin (anti-seizure medicine) were most highly associated with poorer communities – however the latter two were also shown to be more present among older populations, which can also tend to be lower income. Other forms of painkillers, medicines and antidepressants were found to be linked to areas of greater disadvantage, but not to the same extent.
Choi says comparing rich and poor catchment areas directly can be startling. “Just looking at the figures we can see – with one community compared to another – a several-fold difference in the markers of fibre,” he says.
The researchers hope to repeat the survey at the next census, that way providing insight into whether any changes may be underway that other research methods may not yet have uncovered, or may need to be used to investigate further.
For instance, in this study antiobiotic use is fairly uniformly distributed across different socioeconomic groups, indicating the government-subsidised health care system is doing its job; should this distribution start to shift in future surveys, it may prompt further research into whether and why certain groups may be accessing such medicines less