Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Television Viewing, Fast-Food Consumption, and Children's Obesity

Academic journal article Contemporary Economic Policy

Television Viewing, Fast-Food Consumption, and Children's Obesity

Article excerpt

I. INTRODUCTION

Childhood obesity is becoming widespread and growing problem in the world with significant medical, psychological, and economic consequences. Much like the United States and other countries, Taiwan has experienced a substantial increase in the prevalence of child obesity over the past few decades. To date, one in every four children in Taiwan is now considered overweight (Taiwan Medical Association for the Study of Obesity, 2007). Consequently, the prevention of childhood obesity is now one of the primary policy objectives in Taiwan (Chu, 2005; Hsieh and FitzGerald, 2005).

Child obesity is a major public health problem with both individual and environmental causes. Among all the factors that may be related to changes in a child's body weight, nutrition, and public health studies have highlighted the importance of hours spent on television viewing and fast-food consumption (e.g., Gortmaker et al., 1996; Hager, 2006; Hsieh and FitzGerald, 2005; Hui et al., 2003). It has been reported that children spend more time watching TV than any other activity. This is important since television has a powerful influence on the life of children (Strasburger, 1992). Time spent watching TV displaces more active pursuits such as outdoor physical activities. Moreover, fast-food consumption among children appears to be negatively associated with the quality of diet in ways that plausibly could increase body weight. Therefore, the primary purpose of this article was to assess the effects of children's hours spent on TV viewing and the amount of fast-food consumption on their body weight. We are first interested in the extent to which the factors, such as child's characteristics and household features, determine children's TV viewing hours and fast-food consumption. Given a better understanding of the determinants of these two activities, we then investigate the effects of these two activities on children's body weight and the risk of being overweight and obese. While weight status cutoff points tend to be clear for adults, the cutoff points for defining children's weight status vary significantly by gender and age. In other words, children's weight status is not monotonically increasing with their body weight. Therefore, a distinction between the effects of these two activities on children's Body Mass Indix (BODY MASS INDIX) and the risk of being obese or overweight is emphasized in this study.

A number of studies have examined the association between children's hours of TV viewing or the fast-food consumption and child obesity, but most of them are nutrition or public health studies and not much attention has been paid by economists on this subject. Exceptions are found in You and Nayga (2005) and Chou, Rashad, and Grossman (2006). You and Nayga (2005) estimated the effects of household fast-food expenditures and children's television viewing on children's dietary quality in the United States. Using the 1979 Child-Youth Adult National Longitudinal Survey of Youth and the 1997 National Longitude Survey of Youth, Chou, Rashad, and Grossman (2006) investigated the effects of fast-food restaurant advertising on childhood obesity. In contrast to previous studies, our study is unique in several ways. While evidence from the fields of public health and nutrition has shown that hours of TV viewing and fast-food consumption are two crucial factors that determine child obesity (e.g., Bowman et al., 2004; Hager, 2006; Hsieh and FitzGerald, 2005), there has been no attempt to investigate the extent to which these two activities are interrelated. It is reasonable to hypothesize that there should be certain correlation between these two activities since watching television decreases the time available for exercise and activity and also encourages the consumption of snacks and energy foods. With this working hypothesis, we then go on to address another issue: the censoring problem of hours of TV viewing and fast-food consumption. …

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