Movember Data Dive: Eating & Drinking Patterns in the US
In our first Movember data dive, we explored the physical activity and exercise patterns in the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data. In part deux, we will continue to explore this rich health dataset, this time focusing on the eating and drinking patterns in the United States. As you all know, nutrition and exercise go hand-in-hand towards maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Besides, Thanksgiving (aka food coma day) is around the corner and food is on my mind.
(Given the Movember Foundation’s focus on men’s health, we will be only looking at the male respondents data in this data dive.)
Your mom always said, “Eat your veggies.” So, which states paid most heed to that wise advice? If you look at daily vegetable consumption patterns, the western states emerge as clear winners, with California leading the pack. Considering that California grows a sizable majority of most vegetables consumed in the US, it’s no surprise that Californians <3 their veggies.
Beans, Beans, They're Good for Your Heart
The above vegetable consumption map also includes bean consumption. If you isolate the bean consumption metrics, a very different picture emerges. Puerto Rico leads by a large margin, with average consumption of 0.6 times per day (in other words, 3 times every 5 days). If we exclude Puerto Rico from the map, you see that the southern states lead the bean consumption chart on the US mainland. According to the Bean Institute, households with hispanic heritage are dominant consumers of beans. Given the higher prevalence of Hispanic population in Puerto Rico and southern states, the bean consumption metric is no surprise.
It is well known that income has a significant impact on eating habits. In the chart below, you can see that average bean consumption is inversely proportional to income, and average green consumption (shown by dot size) is directly proportional to income. Maintaining a healthy, vegetable-rich diet is expensive in the US, and the results below are likely a reflection of the cost of healthy eating.
An Apple a Day …
Moving on to fruit consumption, if you look at the average daily fruit consumption pattern (excluding fruit juice), you see that coastal residents do a little better than the rest of the country. One could argue that the difference is quite small - once a day for California vs. 0.5 times a day for Puerto Rico. However, if you normalize that on a per week or per month basis, the difference could add up to be quite significant.
Considering that Puerto Rico is home to so many tropical fruits, it is kind of surprising to see Puerto Rico at the bottom of the fruit consumption list. However, Puerto Rico ranked first on fruit juice consumption. Perhaps, Puerto Ricans like consuming their fruits in liquid form. Either that, or Puerto Ricans think of Pina Colada as fruit juice. Speaking of Pina Colada, let’s move on to alcohol consumption patterns.
To Binge or not to Binge?
We don’t really have data to answer that question, but it made for a good section title. The BRFSS survey defines binge drinking as 5 or more drinks per occasion for men, and 4 or more drinks per occasion for women. We were curious about the effect of demographic variables like age, income, education, and marital status on binge-drinking patterns for men in the US.
Binge-drinking behavior shows a strong positive correlation to age. Older people have more binge-drinking days per month than younger people, which seems a little counter-intuitive considering the effects of hangovers are amplified with age (not that I would know anything about that). However, the absolute monthly consumption sort of goes the other way with age, with high consumption in the 18-24 years bracket and reduced consumption in the older groups.
If we factor the
income level into the mix, you see that alcohol consumption (vs. age) patterns
actually vary quite a bit across the various income groups. For men in the
highest income group (> $50,000), the monthly alcohol consumption drops during
their peak working years (35-60 years) and picks up again in post-retirement
age (> 60 years). On the other hand, the alcohol consumption in the lowest
income group (< $15,000) is the highest during their peak earning years, and
only dips in old age.
Education has a strong positive impact on binge-drinking habits, as well as absolute alcohol consumption. If we also factor in the marital status, you see that the monthly alcohol consumption for married men is significantly lower than unmarried / divorced / separated men. If we look at binge patterns, you see that divorced / separated men have significantly more binge-drinking days compared to men in other marital categories. On this, I will simply state “correlation does not imply causation” and leave it at that.