"It's about what you've assigned to the salad": Focus group discussions on the relationship between food and mood

Megan Lee, Joanne Bradbury, Jacqui Yoxall, Sally Sargeant

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Abstract

Current observational and interventional studies in nutritional psychiatry suggest that healthy dietary patterns rich in fresh whole foods could protect against depressive symptoms and that unhealthy dietary patterns high in ultra-processed and refined foods could contribute to depressive symptoms. However, no studies have explored detailed subjective accounts behind the food and mood relationship. This study aimed to uncover unknown factors in the human experience with food and mood. Using a phenomenological framework, this focus group study applied thematic template analysis to accounts of over 50 Australians aged between 18 and 72. Three themes were identified from the transcript of the focus groups: (i) reactive and proactive relationships with food, (ii) acknowledgement of individual diversity relating to eating and mental health, and (iii) improving mood by removing food restriction and eating intuitively. The data highlights the complexity of the relationship between food and mood that extends beyond biological mechanisms which could be used to extend current epidemiological and intervention studies in the field of dietary patterns and depression.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1476
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume20
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2023

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