Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy

Exclusion diets: Exploring relationships between diet, lifestyle, health and social disadvantage in the UK

CASP Investigator: Thanos Maroukis

Research Team: Katie Collins (UWE Faculty of Business and Law), Thomas Kador (University of Bristol Archaelogy & Anthropology School of Arts), Ceire Costelloe (University of Bristol School of Social & Community Medicine) and Kristen Reyher (University of Bristol School of Veterinary Science).

Funder: South West Crucible

Duration: August 2013 - February 2014


Project rationale and aims

Find out more about this project

Name: Dr Thanos Maroukis
Title: Research Associate
Department: Dept of Social and Policy Sciences
E-mail: t.maroukis@bath.ac.uk
Departmental themes
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According to food bank charity The Trussell Trust, almost 350,000 people received at least three days' emergency food during the last 12 months . Food poverty is a growing concern in the UK, but in this study we ask whether impoverished people in 21st century Britain are forced by policy and circumstance to consume a diet akin to the poor of early 20th century slums, with comparable consequences for their health.

According to the British Medical Association , lifestyle choices such as poor diet and lack of physical activity, along with smoking and drinking, are the most significant risk factors for death and ill health in the UK. The Coalition Government’s response favours an approach informed by behavioural economics , adapting the environment so that it “nudges” people towards choices that are healthier. Thus, current policy promotes a healthy lifestyle whilst privileging individual (and commercial) freedom of choice.

The relationship between inequality and health is well established . However, much of the mainstream health research excludes very hard-to-reach groups such as recent migrants, homeless people, and, to a lesser extent, those living in poverty in deprived urban neighbourhoods. Consequently, we suggest that for the most vulnerable groups in our society, freedom to choose a healthy lifestyle may be an illusion, and that current policy risks marginalising these groups to an even greater extent, with serious health and social consequences.

This scoping study will gather primary data to explore the relationship between diet, health and inequality among economic migrants, refugees with indefinite leave to remain, people from working class white backgrounds working casually and living on social welfare benefits and the banned from work asylum seekers of today’s post-industrial Britain. Demographic data from these groups will be compared with secondary data about the dietary habits, living and working conditions of the people of late 19th and early 20th century Britain, a time pre-welfare which was marked by looser entry and employment controls for migrants.

Our aim is twofold for this scoping study: firstly, to understand whether our emerging hypothesis (i.e. that living and working conditions, followed by ensuing health outcomes of people living in poverty today may be comparable by both social and biological measures to impoverished people of the past) is a productive direction for research; and secondly, to explore methodologies that enable direct comparison between the data generated through bioarchaeology, shedding light on the health and lifestyle of past communities and comparison between biological and social information that can be collected from living participants.