Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Association between commercial television exposure and fast-food consumption among adults

Maree Scullya1 c1, Helen Dixona1 and Melanie Wakefielda1

a1 Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, The Cancer Council Victoria, 1 Rathdowne Street, Carlton, Victoria 3053, Australia


Objective To examine the association between television advertising exposure and adults’ consumption of fast foods.

Design Cross-sectional telephone survey. Questions included measures of frequency of fast-food consumption at different meal times and average daily hours spent watching commercial television.

Subjects/setting Subjects comprised 1495 adults (41 % response rate) aged ≥18 years from Victoria, Australia.

Results Twenty-three per cent of respondents usually ate fast food for dinner at least once weekly, while 17 % consumed fast food for lunch on a weekly basis. The majority of respondents reported never eating fast food for breakfast (73 %) or snacks (65 %). Forty-one per cent of respondents estimated watching commercial television for ≤1 h/d (low viewers); 29 % watched for 2 h/d (moderate viewers); 30 % watched for ≥3 h/d (high viewers). After adjusting for demographic variables, high viewers were more likely to eat fast food for dinner at least once weekly compared with low viewers (OR = 1·45; 95 % CI 1·04, 2·03). Both moderate viewers (OR = 1·53; 95 % CI 1·01, 2·31) and high viewers (OR = 1·81; 95 % CI 1·20, 2·72) were more likely to eat fast food for snacks at least once weekly compared with low viewers. Commercial television viewing was not significantly related (P > 0·05) to fast-food consumption at breakfast or lunch.

Conclusions The results of the present study provide evidence to suggest that cumulative exposure to television food advertising is linked to adults’ fast-food consumption. Additional research that systematically assesses adults’ behavioural responses to fast-food advertisements is needed to gain a greater understanding of the mechanisms driving this association.

(Received February 20 2007)

(Accepted February 02 2008)


c1 Email