Public Health Nutrition

Research Paper

Socio-environmental, personal and behavioural predictors of fast-food intake among adolescents

Katherine W Bauera1 c1, Nicole I Larsona1, Melissa C Nelsona1, Mary Storya1 and Dianne Neumark-Sztainera1

a1 Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, West Bank Office Building, 1300 South 2nd Street – Suite 300, Minneapolis, MN 55454, USA


Objective To identify the socio-environmental, personal and behavioural factors that are longitudinally predictive of changes in adolescents’ fast-food intake.

Design Population-based longitudinal cohort study.

Setting Participants from Minnesota schools completed in-class assessments in 1999 (Time 1) while in middle school and mailed surveys in 2004 (Time 2) while in high school.

Subjects A racially, ethnically and socio-economically diverse sample of adolescents (n 806).

Results Availability of unhealthy food at home, being born in the USA and preferring the taste of unhealthy foods were predictive of higher fast-food intake after 5 years among both males and females. Among females, personal and behavioural factors, including concern about weight and use of healthy weight-control techniques, were protective against increased fast-food intake. Among males, socio-environmental factors, including maternal and friends’ concern for eating healthy food and maternal encouragement to eat healthy food, were predictive of lower fast-food intake. Sports team participation was a strong risk factor for increased fast-food intake among males.

Conclusions Our findings suggest that addressing socio-environmental factors such as acculturation and home food availability may help reduce fast-food intake among adolescents. Additionally, gender-specific intervention strategies, including working with boys’ sports teams, family members and the peer group, and for girls, emphasizing the importance of healthy weight-maintenance strategies and the addition of flavourful and healthy food options to their diet, may help reduce fast-food intake.

(Received July 01 2008)

(Accepted November 04 2008)


c1 Corresponding author: Email