What factors predict frequent unhealthy snacking among Australian secondary students? — ASN Events

What factors predict frequent unhealthy snacking among Australian secondary students? (#97)

Philippa Niven 1 , Maree Scully 1 , Belinda Morley 1 , Louise Baur 2 , David Crawford 3 , Victoria Flood 4 , Anthony Okely 5 , Iain S Pratt 6 , Jo Salmon 3 , Melanie Wakefield 1
  1. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, Cancer Council Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
  2. Discipline of Paediatrics & Child Health, The University of Sydney, Sydney
  3. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, Deakin University, Melbourne
  4. School of Health Sciences, University of Wollongong, Wollongong
  5. Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Wollongong
  6. Education and Research, Cancer Council Western Australia, Perth

Aim: To examine demographic and behavioural predictors of unhealthy snack food consumption among Australian secondary school students and the influence of their perceptions of availability, convenience and intake.

Method: Cross-sectional survey of 12,188 students in Years 8 to 11 (aged 12-17 years) who completed the National Secondary Students’ Diet and Activity survey in 2009-10. Students’ self-reported eating, physical activity and sedentary behaviours were assessed using validated instruments administered via an online questionnaire.

Results: Approximately one-in-five adolescents (21%) reported consuming snack foods ≥14 times per week (frequent snackers). A multivariable logistic regression model tested the association between frequent consumption of unhealthy snacks and demographic and behavioural factors. After adjusting for all covariates, older adolescents and those with a BMI of 25+ were less likely to be frequent snackers, while adolescents who reported high fast food and high sugar-sweetened beverage consumption and those who watched >2 hours of television a day were more likely to snack frequently. A second multivariable model tested the association between frequent snack food consumption and adolescents’ perceptions of availability, convenience and intake of snack foods. After adjusting for all covariates and demographic factors, adolescents who agreed that snack foods are usually available at home, snack foods are convenient to buy and that they eat too many snack foods, were more likely to be consuming snack foods on a frequent basis. Conversely, adolescents who agreed that fruit is a convenient snack were less likely to be frequent snackers.

Conclusion: Frequent snack food consumption appears to cluster with other poor eating behaviours and frequent television viewing. Perceptions of availability and convenience are factors most readily amenable to change and findings suggest interventions should focus on decreasing the availability of unhealthy snack foods in the home and promoting healthy options such as fruit as convenient snacks.