Attitudes to water fluoridation in South Africa 1998. Part II. Influence of educational and occupational levels.
The purpose of this report is to investigate the influence of education, income and occupation on public perceptions of water fluoridation (WF). A questionnaire on current knowledge, sources of information, the purpose of WF and its desirability was administered to a representative sample of 2,220 individuals over the age of 18 years. Knowledge of WF increased with educational level (range from 13.5% in the grade 0-5 group to 59% in the grade 12 plus group). Lack of knowledge decreased from 76% to 37% in these groups respectively. Knowledge levels varied from 19% to 68% across the occupational spectrum and from 13% to 88% across the income spectrum. In educational levels up to grade 12, electronic media were most frequently cited as dominant sources of information among 40-50% of respondents, whereas in the grade 12 plus group print media (37%) dominated. Sources of knowledge on fluoridation were largely obtained from print and electronic media for both categories. Only 28% in the educational level up to grade 5 thought the purpose of WF was to protect teeth against decay. This gradually increased to 55% in the grade 12 plus category. More than a quarter of the population in both the occupational and income categories indicated that the purpose of WF was to purify water and protect teeth from decay. The number of respondents who thought that water should be fluoridated increased with level of education from 58% to 70%, while those who disagreed decreased as qualifications increased. The lower- and middle-income groups were more supportive of WF than the very-high-income groups. Persons in high administrative professional and executive positions were more opposed (27%) to WF than semi-skilled and unskilled workers (5%).