This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Perceptions of Social Support for Healthy Eating and Physical Activity among Low-Income Adults in Rural Alabama




Hargrove Eaves, Doris

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Education Foundation, Leadership, and Technology


Social cognitive and social support theories suggest that psychosocial factors such as social support from friends and family can influence health behaviors (Heaney & Israel, 2008; McAlister, Perry, & Parcel, 2008). Few studies have focused on how social support impacts nutrition and physical activity levels among low-income populations in rural areas. Research linking social support and health practices has not been uniformly consistent, suggesting the relations are complex and possibly influenced by variables common to both social support and health practices (Jackson, 2006). This study examined levels of social support received from family and friends, healthy eating, physical activity, and behavior modification among adults living in rural Alabama. Adults from specific counties in Alabama with low incomes were included in this study. Demographic data was collected and included: gender, age, education level, race/ethnic group, marital status, and socioeconomic status. This study also evaluated the importance and the effect of this social support on behavior modification practices. This study used quantitative measures in its design by using the survey method. The data were gathered from two rural low-income communities in Alabama (Macon and Bullock counties) using a Social Support and Eating Habits Survey and a Social Support and Exercise Survey. The surveys with a sample population of 204 participants between the ages of 19-65 were used to measure responses to each of the research questions. Correlations and multiple linear regressions were used to analyze the data collected. The results demonstrated a statistically significant relationship occurred between social support, behavior modification and perceived perceptions. The information from this study will be used to assist nutrition and health educators with creating more effective behavior modification instruments to be used for future education purposes, since these factors may influence life expectancy.