Primetime television impacts on adolescents' impressions of bodyweight, sex appeal, and food and beverage consumption

Jeffrey S. Hampl, Christopher Wharton, Christopher A. Taylor, Donna M. Winham, Jillian L. Block, Rick Hall

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    10 Scopus citations


    Television viewing is ubiquitous in adolescent culture, but the influence of television characters on adolescent behaviours and social norms is not well understood. We conducted a content analysis of 10 television programmes frequently watched by 12- to 17-year-olds in the US media market. From these data, a survey was developed to determine how adolescents interact with, and are influenced by, television programmes, especially in relation to bodyweight, sex appeal, and food and beverage consumption. The survey was posted online, and students (12-19 years) from across the state of Arizona, USA, completed it electronically (n = 524). Data were assessed by tabulation, principal axis factor analysis and linear regression analysis. The results showed 12% of sample members had a body mass index (BMI)-for-age over the 95th percentile, 50% reported watching >2 h of television each day, and 59% reported accruing <60 min of exercise and physical activity each day. Over 35% of respondents indicated eating pizza and pasta frequently. Beer and wine were seen as the most frequently consumed beverages on television, while 63.9% of sample members reported soda as their personal beverage of choice. Factor extraction from the survey indicated a three-factor solution ('sex appeal', 'TV viewers and perceivers', 'TV viewers and doers') provided the best conceptual explanation of the data, accounting for 34.7% of the total variance. Significant predictors (r2 = 0.448) of BMI-for-age included urbanicity (β=5.6), gender (β =-14.5) and survey questions related to bodyweight perceptions. Our data showed that television's focus on sex appeal, thinness and alcohol may have a powerful impact on adolescents' self-esteem, body satisfaction and health behaviours. Innovative approaches related to decreased television viewing, household eating environment and media literacy warrant further exploration.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)92-98
    Number of pages7
    JournalNutrition Bulletin
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Jun 2004


    • Adolescent
    • Exercise
    • Obesity
    • Television

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Medicine (miscellaneous)
    • Nutrition and Dietetics


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