Older People Survey 2004

Key Messages

  • Nearly everyone (95%) knew that salt causes blood pressure to rise (Q2)
  • Only 1 in 5 knew about the link with salt and osteoporosis (18%) and stomach cancer (19%) (Q2)
  • One in four (26%) either did not know how much salt they should be eating in a day or got the figure wrong (Q4)
  • In comparison to the other groups surveyed last year, (79%) of MPs had the greater awareness of the 6g target compared to the elderly (74%) (Q4)
  • 70% of elderly were aware that the majority of salt comes from processed foods, compared to (100%) of MP's, (89%) of health professionals and (87%) teachers (Q5)
  • The vast majority (71%) were aware of the FSA campaign) or that in this age group there is greater awareness of these diseases as the risk of developing them is highest in the older population (Q12)
  • The majority of participants were unaware of hidden salt levels in four given foods. 75% did not know that cornflakes were the saltiest of the four products (Q6)
  • The elderly (33%) are the least aware of salt containing sodium compared to (67%) MPs, (71%) teachers and (68%) health professionals (Q7)
  • Just over two in three (63%) did not know the relationship between sodium and salt or got it wrong. There is a definite lack of understanding and knowledge about the difference between salt and sodium as 24% said that salt and sodium were exactly the same and 22% had no idea about the relationship between salt and sodium. 4% did not answer the question (Q7)
  • The majority of respondents (69%) said that present sodium information is not comprehensible (Q9)
  • The majority (62%) would like to see both salt and sodium labelled and 27% would like to see salt labelled (Q10)
  • 81% of respondents would like to see salt labelled in one of two formats, either with salt content per serving or just the salt content (Q11)

Introduction

Aim of the survey

The theme for this year's 6th National Salt Awareness Day is salt and the older population. In light of this we have conducted a pilot study to find out what the older population understand about salt and any misconceptions that they may have.

The aim of the pilot was to explore the older populations perceptions of salt and salt labelling, thus leading to a fuller investigation at a later date.

Analysis of the data

The pilot survey was conducted in September 2004 at a London Pensioners Fund Conference and the Nutrition and Health Show. It consisted of a self-report questionnaire with 15 questions.

It was an 'interviewer' administered questionnaire in which attendees of the London Pensioners Fund Conference and the Nutrition and Health Show were asked to fill in the questionnaire and to hand it back once completed.

The questionnaire design consisted mainly of quantitative questions to ascertain a percentage of what various groups surveyed felt. A pilot questionnaire was used to test the robustness of the questions.

A brief introduction along with instructions on how to fill out the questionnaire was included at the top of each questionnaire. Personal information regarding occupation, age and gender were placed last on the questionnaire form.

Results

The sample

There was a total of 103 people surveyed comprising of 28% (50-59 yrs), 28% (60-69 years), 27% (70-79 years), 5% (80-89 years), 2% (90+) and 10% that did not report their age. There was an approximately equal distribution of men and women, 47% and 53% respectively.

Question 1 - Do you think eating too much salt affects your health?
Nearly everyone knows that salt affects their health, according to those surveyed 89% said that salt affected health. 2% did not answer the question.

Question 2 -A high salt intake can cause?
Nearly everyone (95%) knew that salt caused blood pressure to rise and a large majority of people (80%) knew that salt can cause strokes, but the other effects were less well known. Over half (61%) knew that salt caused fluid retention and (63%) for heart attacks. One in five (18%) knew that salt was linked to osteoporosis, (19%) for stomach cancer and 19% for memory/concentration problems. Three out of ten (29%) knew kidney disease was a cause of high salt intake. Only 7% knew there was a link to headaches, 5% to Meniere's disease. 2% did not answer the question.

Question 3 - Which one of these four mostly worries you about food?
Survey participants were asked which food items worried them most. The options included, artifical flavours, artifical colours, salt in food and sugar in food.

The results were not valid to use because many respondents had ticked more than one box.

Question 4 - What is the maximum recommended daily amount of salt for an adult in the UK?

The majority (74%) knew that the recommended maximum daily amount is 6 grams per day. Despite this the average salt intake remains at between 10-12 grams per day.

5% thought 9 grams was the recommendation and 5% thought 12 grams was the recommendation.
Nearly one in three (26%) did not know how much salt they should be eating in a day.

Question 5 - What is the main source of salt in the diet of an average person?

The majority at (70%) knew that the main source of salt is in processed foods.
However, one in five (19%) thought the main source is salt added to cooking. 9% did not answer the question.

Question 6- List these foods in increasing order of salt content
Out of the items listed, cornflakes are the saltiest item, followed by crisps, bread and the least salty is ketchup.

The majority of participants were unaware of hidden salt levels in these foods. Only 25% or three in ten ranked cornflakes as the saltiest of the four food products. A higher percentage (37%) ranked crisps the saltier product when in fact cornflakes are actually slightly saltier. Only 26% ranked ketchup as the least saltiest. 17% did not answer the question

Question 7 -Which of these statements best describes the relationship between salt and sodium?

Only 33% or 1 in 3 were correct in saying that salt contains sodium.
A worrying 24% said that salt and sodium were exactly the same and 22% had no idea about the relationship. This is a total of 46%, just under one in two people. A total of 63% (two in three) either got it wrong or did not know the relationship between sodium and salt. 4% gave no answer.

Therefore this results show that there is a need for more education in terms of what salt is and how it is composed.

Question 8 - Do you look for the sodium content of the product when shopping?

Two in five or 38% of respondents look for sodium information when shopping and 59% do not look for the sodium information. 3% gave no answer.

Question 9 - Do you think present nutrition information on sodium is comprehensible?

The majority of respondents (69%) said that present sodium information is not comprehensible and only 10% or one in ten said that it was comprehensible. 19% did not know presumably because they don't look for the information on the labelling. 2% did not answer the question.

Question 10 - Which ingredient should be labelled?

27% said that salt should be labelled, compared with only 3% who think that sodium should be labelled. The majority (62%) or over three in five would like to see both salt and sodium labelled. 8% did not answer the question.

Question 11 - What method of labelling would you prefer to see?

This fits in line with the previous question about salt being labelled as 50% would like to see the salt content per serving on packaging and 31% would like to see the salt content labelled. So in total 81% of respondents would like to see salt labelled in one of two forms. 5% are happy with the existing labelling and 9% gave no answer.

Question 12 - Are you aware of the Food Standards Agency initiative to reduce the salt intake of the UK population down to 6g of salt a day?

71% of respondents are aware of the FSA initiative to reduce salt intake and more recently through the launch of their salt awareness campaign in September 2004. 25% were not aware of the FSA campaign and 4% gave no answer.