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

  • Katherine W Bauer (a1), Nicole I Larson (a1), Melissa C Nelson (a1), Mary Story (a1) and Dianne Neumark-Sztainer (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 October 2009

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


Population-based longitudinal cohort study.


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.


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


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.


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.

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