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Does television affect teenagers’ food choices?

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Objective: To explore whether food choices are linked to the extent of television watching among teenagers.Design: A representative state-wide sample of 2082 junior high school students (aged 12–15 years) was surveyed cross-sectionally in Tasmania, Australia. Respondents completed a printed questionnaire, which asked inter alia how much time subjects spent watching television, how frequently they consumed each of 22 foods, their socio-demographic characteristics and their local dietary milieu (i.e. the frequency of usage of each food by parents and friends).Results: Respondents watched television for an average of 3.3 h per day (s.d. 1.9 h). For 18 of the 22 foods, there was a significant (P<0.01) linear relation between hours of television watched per day and frequency of consumption of the food. For 10 of the 22 foods, it remained significant even after the addition of several predictor variables reflecting socio-demographic characteristics and the frequency of consumption of the food by parents and friends. Students who watched television more extensively tended to eat ‘healthy’ foods less often and ‘unhealthy’ foods more often.Conclusion: The results suggest possible dietary explanations for previous reports linking television watching to obesity and hypercholesterolaemia. In addition, they suggest that a high level of television watching might be a useful screening indicator of an unhealthy diet.

Keywords: Australia; diet; food choices; social influences; teenagers; television

Document Type: Original Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1365-277X.1997.00057.x

Affiliations: 1: Division of Biochemistry, University of Tasmania, Hobart Tasmania 7001, 2: School of Nutrition & Public Health, Deakin University, Geelong Victoria 3217; Australia 3: Department of Psychology, University of Tasmania, Hobart Tasmania 7001,

Publication date: January 1, 1997

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