Background: Television viewing has been associated with poor eating behaviours in adolescents. Changing unhealthy eating behaviours is most likely to be achieved by identifying and targeting factors shown to mediate the association between these behaviours. However, little is known about the mediators of the associations between television viewing and eating behaviours. The aim of this study was to examine mediators of the longitudinal associations between television viewing (TV) and eating behaviours among Australian adolescents.
Method: Eating behaviours were assessed using a web-based survey completed by a community-based sample of 1729 adolescents from years 7 and 9 of secondary schools in Victoria, Australia, at baseline (2004-2005) and two years later. TV viewing and the potential mediators (snacking while watching TV and perceived value of TV viewing) were assessed via the web-based survey at baseline.
Results: Adolescents who watched more than two hours of TV/day had higher intakes of energy-dense snacks and beverages, and lower intakes of fruit two years later. Furthermore, the associations between TV viewing and consumption of energy-dense snacks, energy-dense drinks and fruit were mediated by snacking while watching TV. Perceived value of TV viewing mediated the association between TV viewing and consumption of energy-dense snacks, beverages and fruit.
Conclusion: Snacking while watching TV and perceived value of TV viewing mediated the longitudinal association between TV viewing and eating behaviours among adolescents. The efficacy of methods to reduce TV viewing, change snacking habits while watching TV, and address the values that adolescents place on TV viewing should be examined in an effort to promote healthy eating among adolescents.