Healthy eating of 5-a-day among adults

The main facts and figures show that:

  • overall, 57.4% of adults in England ate 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’) in 2016/17, a slight increase on 2015/16
  • the percentage of adults in the White British group who ate ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17 (58.4%) was significantly higher than the England average
  • the percentage of adults in the Black, Asian and Chinese ethnic groups who ate ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17 was significantly lower than the England average (45.7%, 48.9% and 51.1% respectively)
  • the percentage of adults who ate ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17 was significantly lower than in 2015/16 for the Chinese group, and significantly higher than in 2015/16 for the White British group; for other ethnic groups, too few adults responded to the survey or the responses were too varied to draw firm conclusions
Things you need to know

The data shown here is based on the Active Lives Survey (AL). This survey has been used to collect data on healthy eating in adults since 2015/16. Before 2015/16, data was based on responses to the Active People Survey. Although data is available for the years before 2015/16, it is not comparable due to differences in the questions asked and how responses were collected.

It is unlikely that everyone who responded in the AL survey and reported that they eat 5 portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’) responded accurately. This may be because of factors such as people being unable to accurately recall what they ate.

Fruit and vegetable consumption are also measured by the National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) and the Health Survey for England (HSE). When compared with the findings from these other surveys, the AL survey estimates a higher percentage of people eating ‘5-a-day’. These differences may reflect how these surveys collect their data. The AL survey uses an online or postal response method rather than a personal food diary or a face-to-face interview.

The AL survey is a 'sample survey': it collects information from a sample of the population randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File to make generalisations (reach 'findings') about the total population. The overall sample size is around 198,250 each year. Data has been weighted to ONS population measures for geography and key demographics.

As with all surveys, the estimates from the AL survey are subject to a degree of uncertainty as they are based on a sample of the population. The degree of uncertainty is greater when the number of respondents is small, so it will be highest for ethnic minority groups.

The commentary for this data only includes reliable, or ‘statistically significant’, findings. Findings are statistically significant when we can be confident that they can be repeated, and are reflective of the total population rather than just the survey sample.

Specifically, the statistical tests used mean we can be confident that if we carried out the same survey on different random samples of the population, 19 times out of 20 we would get similar findings.

What the data measures

This data provides an estimate of the percentage of adults (aged 16 and older) in England who ate the recommended 5 portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’) in 2015/16 and 2016/17. The results are broken down by ethnicity.

The data source is Sport England’s Active Lives Survey. As part of this survey, participants were asked questions on self-reported fruit and vegetable consumption.

The ‘5-a-day’ recommendation was issued by the National Health Service in 2002.

The ethnic categories used in this data

The data has been grouped into the following broad ethnic categories:

  • Asian
  • Black
  • Chinese
  • Mixed
  • White British
  • White Other
  • Other ethnicity

Ethnic groups and how data on ethnicity is collected

Healthy eating of 5-a-day among adults by ethnicity

Percentage of adults eating ‘5-a-day’ by ethnicity

Ethnicity 2015/16 2016/17
% %
All 56.8 57.4
Asian 47.5 48.9
Black 46.4 45.7
Chinese 57.2 51.1
Mixed 53.3 56.0
White British 57.9 58.4
White other 58.3 58.3
Other 59.7 57.1

Download table data (CSV) Source data (CSV)

Summary

This data shows that:

  • in England, over 57.4% of adults (aged 16 years and over) ate 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’) in 2016/17; this is an increase compared with 2015/16, when the England average was 56.8%
  • 58.4% of adults in the White British group ate ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17, significantly higher than the England average
  • the percentage of adults eating ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17 was lowest in the Black ethnic group, at 45.7%; this was significantly lower than the England average, along with the Asian and Chinese ethnic groups at 48.9% and 51.1% respectively
  • the percentage of adults who ate '5-a-day' in 2016/17 was significantly lower than in 2015/16 for the Chinese group, and significantly higher than 2015/16 for the White British group; for other ethnic groups, the change was too small or too few adults responded to the survey to draw firm conclusions

Methodology

Methodology

The data for this measure is taken from the Active Lives (AL) Survey in 2015/16 and 2016/17.

Respondents to the survey were asked 2 questions about how many portions of fruit and vegetables they eat on a usual day. Respondents were counted as eating 5 portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’) if their responses on the numbers of fruit and vegetables added up to 5 or more.

The survey sample is randomly selected from the Royal Mail’s Postal Address File, which has a very high coverage of private residential addresses. A letter is sent to households inviting up to 2 people per household to take part in the survey, either online or by requesting a paper version of the questionnaire. A random sampling survey design ensures results are representative of the population. Results for 2016/17 are based on responses from a sample of around 198,250 people. Only people aged 16 or older were included.

Weighting:

Weighting is used to adjust the results of a survey to make them representative of the population and improve their accuracy.

For example, a survey which contains 25% women and 75% men will not accurately reflect the views of the general population, which we know has an even 50/50 split.

Statisticians rebalance or ‘weight’ the survey results to more accurately represent the general population. This helps to make them more reliable.

Data has been weighted to ONS population measures for geography and key demographics.

Confidence intervals:

The confidence intervals for each ethnic group are available if you download the data.

57.4% of adults surveyed in 2016/17 reported eating 5 or more portions of fruit and vegetables on a usual day (‘5-a-day’). This is a reliable estimate of the percentage of adults in England who ate ‘5-a-day’, but because the AL Survey results are based on a random sample of adults aged 16 or older, it is not possible to be 100% certain of the true percentage.

It’s 95% certain, however, that somewhere between 57.2% and 57.7% of all adults in England ate ‘5-a-day’ in 2016/17. In statistical terms, this is a 95% confidence interval. This means that if 100 random samples were taken, then 95 times out of 100 the estimate would fall in this range (i.e. between the upper and lower confidence interval). But 5 times out of 100 it would fall outside this range.

The smaller the survey sample, the more uncertain the estimate and the wider the confidence interval. For example, the number of people from the Chinese ethnic group sampled for this survey is relatively small compared with the entire population, so we can be less certain about the estimate for the smaller group. This greater uncertainty for people from the Chinese ethnic group is expressed by the wider confidence interval of between 48.0% and 54.1%.

Statistically significant findings have been determined where the 95% confidence intervals of an ethnic group do not overlap when comparing with another ethnic group or between time periods

The Wilson Score method for calculating confidence intervals has been used. This gives very accurate confidence intervals for proportions and odds based on the assumption of a binomial distribution. The Wilson Score method is the preferred method for calculating confidence intervals for proportions.

For further details of the sampling method and weighting see the Active Lives Survey technical report.

Rounding

Figures have been rounded to 1 decimal point in the charts and tables. Unrounded figures are available if you download the data.

Quality and methodology information

Data sources

Source

Type of data

Survey data

Type of statistic

Official statistics

Publisher

Public Health England

Publication frequency

Yearly

Purpose of data source

The Active Lives (AL) Survey replaces the Active People Survey. It measures the number of people who take part in sport and physical activity by demographic group, where people live and activity type. It was carried out on behalf of Sport England by research company IPSOS-MORI.

Secondary source

Publisher

Sport England

Download the data

Healthy eating of '5-a-day' among adults - Spreadsheet (csv) 3 KB

This file contains the following: ethnicity, year, value, denominator, confidence intervals