Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality for all Asian/Pacific Islander American groups in the United States. Epidemiological studies and mortality data provide evidence to support the growing concern about heart disease and its risk factors in Chinese Americans. The purpose of this survey research was to determine the usefulness of variables from psychosocial models of health behavior in explaining fat-related dietary behaviors among a sample of first and second generation Chinese Americans living in New York City.
A survey questionnaire was administered to a convenience sample of 743 healthy, U.S.- and foreign-born Chinese Americans, ranging from ages 21 to 73 with a mean age of 36 years. A total of 446 female and 297 male adults completed the survey instrument, accounting for approximately 60% and 40% of the sample, respectively. The questionnaire measured demographic factors, degree of acculturation, food preferences, and 13 social psychological scales derived from the Theory of Planned Behavior, the Health Belief Model, and Social Cognitive Theory. The dependent measures assessed were behaviors related to the selection of reduced-fat diets. Multiple regression analyses were conducted to determine the association of the social psychological factors with the dependent outcomes.
In the first generation sample, attitude, perceived barriers and self-efficacy contributed to 19% of the variance of a combined index of behaviors related to fat reduction. The predictability was increased to 24% with the addition of age, gender, and education effects. In the second generation sample, attitude toward reducing dietary fat, perceived barriers, and overall health concern accounted for 39% of the variance in the prediction of dietary fat reduction behaviors. The addition of gender, age, and education contributed significantly to this regression model and accounted for a total of 51% of the variance in the prediction of dietary behavior for this subgroup.
As a whole, females consistently scored higher on dietary fat reduction behaviors than their male counterparts. Nutrition educators need to acknowledge the importance of psychosocial and demographic factors as mediating variables for the adoption of fat reduction behaviors in Chinese Americans.