Public Health Nutrition

Research Article

Television viewing behaviour and associations with food habits in different countries

Carine A Vereeckena1 c1, Joanna Todda2, Chris Robertsa3, Caroline Mulvihilla4 and Lea Maesa1

a1 Department of Public Health, Ghent University, UH, Block A, 2nd floor, De Pintelaan 185, B-9000 Ghent, Belgium:

a2 Child & Adolescent Health Research Unit, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK:

a3 Research and Evaluation Branch, Health Promotion Division, Welsh Assembly Government, Cardiff, UK:

a4 Health Development Agency, Holborn Gate, London, UK


Objective Several environmental factors influence adolescents' food habits and television (TV) viewing is thought to be one of these factors. The purpose of the present study was to describe sociodemographic differences in TV viewing and to examine associations of TV viewing with the consumption of sweets, soft drinks, fruit and vegetables in different countries.

Methods Data were collected from 162 305 young people completing the 2001/02 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children survey, a World Health Organization cross-national study on health and health behaviours among 11–, 13– and 15–year-old school pupils. Analyses of variance were used to examine sociodemographic differences in TV viewing and logistic regression analyses to examine associations between TV viewing and food habits.

Results Large differences were found between countries in reported daily TV viewing time, from an average of 2.0 h in Switzerland to 3.7 h in Ukraine. The results indicate that those most likely to watch TV are boys, 13-year-olds and pupils of lower socio-economic status. Those who watched more TV were more likely to consume sweets and soft drinks on a daily basis and less likely to consume fruit and vegetables daily, although the latter associations were not so apparent among Central and Eastern European countries.

Conclusions Given the high TV viewing rates among adolescents and the association with less healthy food options, many young people are at increased risk of overweight or obesity. Interventions to modify TV viewing behaviour are needed. The findings underscore the importance of tackling socio-economic differences.

(Received February 01 2005)

(Accepted July 07 2005)


c1 *Corresponding author: Email