Predicting healthy eating behavior among adolescents using the Theory of Planned Behavior

Project: Research project

Project Details


Healthy eating is important to everyone in every country, and its absence brings about considerable social and economic burdens. Twenty-two percent of primary school students in Hong Kong were obese in 2008-09. This obesity rate demonstrated a significant increase when compared to the 16 percent in 1997-98 (Hong Kong SAR Government, 2010).

Mainland China also faces the issue of child obesity. The obesity rate among mainland children under the age of 15 increased from 15 percent in 1982 to 27 percent in 2004 (Lau, 2004). Problems such as obesity have raised questions about how the healthy eating message can best be communicated to young people. Effective health communication should be based on a sound knowledge of young people’s attitudes toward healthy eating and the cognitive psychology involved in health communication.

This study will investigate Hong Kong and mainland Chinese adolescents’ intention toward healthy eating. The Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) is used as the theoretical framework to examine how the intention to engage in healthy eating is affected by attitudes, perceived behavioral control and subjective norms related to healthy eating. Variables in addition to the conventional TPB variables will include perceived barriers, self-efficacy, past healthy eating behavior, and behavioral knowledge. The Hong Kong part of the study was conducted in 2012. This project seeks funding to conduct the mainland China part of the study.

The research builds on the investigators’ previous work in this area and will make significant theoretical and practical contributions to the understanding of adolescent eating habits in Hong Kong and mainland China. The proposed study will be the first to apply the Theory of Planned Behavior to predict the effects on healthy eating in a Chinese society. Applications of the Theory of Planned Behavior and the associated Theory of Reasoned Action are commonplace in western countries, but the theory has been applied less often in a Chinese context. There is evidence to suggest that for some behaviors predictions may vary depending on the social and cultural settings (Bagozzi et al, 2000). How would the theory apply to the adoption of healthy eating behavior in China? Although the focus of this research is on the theoretical contribution, given the magnitude of the obesity problem in Hong Kong and mainland China the results of the study will also be of practical importance in assisting parents, educators and policy makers in designing health communication strategies for adolescents.
Effective start/end date1/12/1331/07/15


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.