Thursday, April 26, 2007

The link between advertising and childhood obesity

Recent research suggests a link between what kids watch on TV and the actions that they take. Researchers from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand published a study that shows a link between junk food advertising and childhood obesity -- which some say is reaching epic proportions.

The Study has followed a group of around 1000 children born in Dunedin in 1972-73. Every two years between the ages of 5 and 15, they were asked how much television they watched. The researchers found that those who watched the most television had the most health problems as young adults. Those with higher television watching habits had higher levels of obesity, blood cholesterol and smoking - as well as lower levels of physical fitness - when they reached adulthood than kids who watched less than two hours a day.

The fat factor: the impact of advertising on kids

The Kaiser Family Foundation, a non-profit special interest group, recently released a report that says tweens see about 20 food advertisements every day. The foundation conducted media research on the viewing habits of kids aged 2-17 and compared that to the content of the advertising on the most popular television networks. The results suggest that while children are not exposed to 3,000 ads each day, there may be a link between television advertising and childhood obesity.
The study tracked shows watched by children ages two to 17 on 13 broadcast
and cable television networks in 2005, analysing the advertisement quantity and
content. Children saw many thousands of food ads a year, most touting
unhealthy products, it found.
    • Children ages 8 to 12 viewed the most food ads – on average,
      21 daily and more than 7600 a year totalling nearly 51 hours.
    • Those ages 13 to 17 viewed 17 food ads daily and more than 6000 a year totalling nearly 41 hours.
    • Children ages two to seven saw 12 food ads daily and 4400 a year totalling
      almost 30 hours. These younger children watched less TV overall and were more
      likely to watch channels with limited or no advertising like PBS and Disney.
    • Half of all ad time on children's shows was for food products – a higher
      proportion than for any type of show. About 80 per cent of these were for candy,
      snack foods like chips, sugary cereals, fast food, sodas and other soft drinks.
    • The findings were based on a sample of 1638 hours of TV programming that
      included 8854 food ads. Some shows were specifically made for children and
      others not. Of all the ads, none touted fruits or vegetables.