Study Confirms Findings that Advertising Plays a Large Role in Child Obesity
In America and many other countries, obesity is a problem that is becoming more and more common, especially among children. Often, the replacement of television over physical activities is blamed, but a recent study has confirmed previous findings that advertising targeted at children is a bigger factor in childhood obesity.
In the study, data was collected in both 1997 and 2002, which included information about the daily activities of children. This information was provided by parents who completed a daily diary that documented their child's activities on a weekday and a weekend.
The types of television programming watched was grouped into educational TV, educational videos(tape and DVD,) non-educational videos(tape and DVD,) children's television, and non-children's television.
It was found that in 1997, children under 7 watched about .9 hours of commercial television and .75 hours of non-commercial television each day. Children over 7 watched about 1.5 hours of commercial television and .5 hours of noncommercial television. The amount of noncommercial television watched each day decreased in 2002, with an increase of commercial television.
In children under 7, there was little difference between obesity rates of those who watched educational videos as opposed to regular videos. Nor was there a major difference between the obesity rate of those who watched commercial children television and those who watched regular commercial television.
Similarly, among children over 7, there was little difference between those who watched educational television, educational videos, and non-educational videos.
However, it was found that in children under 7, every hour of commercial television was associated with a .11 increase in BMI levels. Similar findings were discovered when 2002 data was included, which showed a strong relationship between obesity and commercial advertising. This was after factors such as the BMI of the mother, which has a direct relationship on the childs eating habits, were taken into account.
This study backs up the findings of similar studies, which found that in general watching noncommercial television and videos had no statistical affect on obesity rates, while children who watch commercial television are more likely to be obese. Often, this is attributed to the children not being able to recognize the difference between advertising and regular programming.
When the prevalence of advertisements that are specifically targeted at children, with more than $10 billion dollars being spent each year on food related advertisements, the correlation between commercial advertising and childhood obesity is much easier to see. It is estimated that children see about 4000 food related commercials each year, with food advertising being most popular during children's programs, representing about 20% of commercials, whereas during other programming it usually only represents 5%.
This study, in addition to a number of other similar studies not only shows how effective this marketing is, but also how much of a health risk it presents. Further, this study helped to dispel the myth that television itself is a leading factor in obesity, with the real problem being the many unhealthy products marketed directly to children.
Source: American Journal of Public Health; Feb2010, Vol. 100 Issue 2, p334-340, 7p