The number of takeaway food outlets has risen by as much as 45% in some of the poorest areas, according to a new study by the University of Cambridge.
Using Yellow Pages telephone directories, researchers were able to collect data on the number and location of takeaway food outlets at various points during 1990 and 2008. The findings were then mapped onto electoral ward boundaries from which a clear pattern emerged linking a rise in fast food outlets with areas of high deprivation.
The highest absolute increase in the number of outlets was seen in the areas of the highest deprivation with an increase from 4.6 outlets to 6.5 outlets per 10,000 residents.
In areas of least deprivation, takeaway outlets increased by 30% from 1.6 to 2.1 per 10,000 residents over the same time period. The percentage difference between the highest number of takeaway outlets in deprived areas (6.5) to that in more affluent areas (2.1) is nearly 200%.
A diet high in takeaway food can cause excessive weight and this can be a contributory factor in a number of chronic health problems. Researchers believe that this rise of fast food outlets predominantly within areas of high deprivation could compound the existing problems of inequality.
The growing concentration of takeaway outlets in poorer areas might be reinforcing inequalities in diet and obesity, with unhealthy neighbourhoods making it more difficult to make healthy food choices.” Pablo Monsivais
Previous studies have shown that individuals of lower socioeconomic status living within deprived areas are more likely to be overweight and to have unhealthy diets than more affluent members of society.
PhD student Eva Maguire, lead author of the study from CEDAR, University of Cambridge said: “The link we’ve seen between the number of takeaway food outlets and area deprivation is consistent with other reports, but this is the first time the changes over time have been studied in the UK. There were differences in the densities of takeaway outlets as far back as we looked, but these differences also became more extreme.”
Dr Pablo Monsivais, also from CEDAR, added: “The growing concentration of takeaway outlets in poorer areas might be reinforcing inequalities in diet and obesity, with unhealthy neighbourhoods making it more difficult to make healthy food choices. Our findings suggest that it might be time for local authorities to think hard about restrictions on the number and location of outlets in a given area, particularly deprived areas.”
Cambridge University Press: The Rise of the takeaway
Maguire ER et al. Area deprivation and the food environment over time: a repeated cross-sectional study on takeaway outlet density and supermarket presence in Norfolk, UK, 1990 – 2008. Health & Place; 2 April 2015.