Food in social context

Food and our relationship with it continually changes throughout our lives. Sometimes, what we need from our food changes, and at other times, it’s about how certain foods make us feel at that time. Studies have found that women often try harder than men to avoid foods they think are ‘bad’. Women also worry more about food choices. 

Why is this? Well, society has certain ideas about how women should look, which can cause stress. The media often shows pictures of ‘perfect’ bodies, and this can make us feel we need to look that way too. This pressure can sometimes make us make not-so-good choices about what we eat. 

As we grow older, there are many things that affect how we choose our food. Some of these reasons are because of what society expects or because of money matters. Other reasons have to do with changes our bodies go through as we age. Remembering these things can help us to be kinder to ourselves about the food choices we make. 


 Many things around us affect what we eat. Our traditions and culture often guide the foods we choose, helping us express who we are and how we belong. Our family and friends also have a big part in what we like to eat from when we are young. When we eat by ourselves, some studies have shown that we might choose different foods or amounts than when we eat with others. 

Women, in particular, sometimes feel pressure to change what and how much they eat because of how they are portrayed in the media. Ads and shows might talk about ‘healthy’ or ‘low calorie’ foods and diets, or show certain body shapes as ideal. These messages can influence what we eat, even if we don’t always notice it.  

Illustration in food in a social context


Food prices can affect our ability to get the right nutrition. When healthy food is expensive, it’s tempting to buy cheaper, less nutritious options. How much money we make and where we live can make it easier or harder to find nutritious food. In fact, income makes the biggest difference in choices about what food we buy, according to a report by the OECD. This can lead to differences in our health.   

Where we live can also make a difference in the food choices available to us. For example, if we live in rural or regional areas where there aren’t as many choices for food shopping, or in areas that don’t have good transport options, it can be hard to find good food. 


Illustration in food in a social context

As we get older, many things can change the way we feel about food. We might not feel as hungry, or the foods we once loved might taste different. Our mental wellbeing (how we feel inside), stress, and what we believe about food can also affect our food choices.  

As we age, going out to buy groceries might be harder if walking becomes tough or if we can’t drive. But if you are in that position, don’t worry – there are helpful services like Meals on Wheels, which deliver affordable meals to your home, to make sure you stay healthy and get to enjoy good, nutritious food.  

There is also the federal government’s Commonwealth Home Support Program, which can help with preparing meals in your own home. This is just one of the ways they can help you to stay independent in your home (and for more on this topic, read our section on Independence). 


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