Influence of Media on Overweight and Obesity Among Latino Youth

More than 38 percent of Latino youth ages 2-19 in the United States are overweight and almost 21 percent are obese, placing them at higher risk for developing both health and psychological problems.

Environmental, social and cultural factors have been found to contribute to the higher rates of overweight and obesity among this population. Food marketing also plays a significant role in influencing the health behaviors of Latino youth.

This research brief explores the relationships between media marketing and the health behaviors of Latino youth, particularly as these behaviors pertain to overweight and obesity.

Key Findings:

  • Latino youth consume almost 4.5 hours more media daily than White youth (13 hours of total media exposure for Latinos per day versus 8 hours and 36 minutes for Whites).
  • Increased television viewing is associated with increased snacking and caloric intake. Each one-hour increase in television viewing translates to an additional 167 calories per day consumed of calorie-dense, low-nutrient foods.
  • Latinos are avid users of digital media. Ninety percent of Latinos have a cell phone; 66 percent use text messaging; and two-thirds have been online for more than five years.
  • Communication-based sedentary behaviors (talking on phone, texting, instant-messaging), contribute to a lack of physical activity among Latino youth.
  • Latinos, particularly Latino youth, have been identified as an important target market segment among fast-food and soda companies.

Future research is needed to address the influence of marketing practices targeted to Latino youth. These studies should include: effects of unhealthy food and beverage outlets within Latino communities on consumption behaviors; effects of food marketing to Latino youth; effectiveness of media campaigns focused on healthy eating and physical activity; and the usefulness of various forms of media, i.e., video games, text messaging and Internet advertisements, to promote healthy behaviors among Latino youth.