Communicating healthy eating to adolescents

Kara Chan*, Gerard Prendergast, Alice Grønhøj, Tino Bech-Larsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
23 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose: This study aims to explore perceptions of healthy/unhealthy eating, and perceptions of various socializing agents encouraging healthy eating, amongst Chinese adolescents. 

Design/methodology/approach: A survey was conducted of 152 seventh, eighth and ninth grade Hong Kong students. A structured questionnaire with closed-ended questions was distributed in three public secondary schools. 

Findings: Results showed that respondents frequently ate out with friends and frequently consumed a range of relatively unhealthy food (candies, chips, and soft drinks). They perceived that a balanced diet and eating at a regular time were the most important attributes of healthy eating. In terms of situational influences on their consumption, respondents most likely ate unhealthy food at parties, when eating out or with friends. They most likely ate healthy food at home and when they were sick. Looking at socializing agents, respondents claimed that parents and government publicity asked them to eat healthy food more often than teachers or friends. Parents were also perceived as being the most effective source in encouraging them to eat healthy food. In terms of alternative advertising appeals discouraging unhealthy eating, respondents considered news and fear appeals to be the most effective, while popularity and achievement appeals were considered to be relatively less effective. 

Research limitations/implications: The respondents were chosen from three secondary schools (two co-ed schools and one school for boys). These three schools may not be representative of all schools in Hong Kong or elsewhere, thus limiting the generalizability of the findings. 

Practical implications: The study can serve as a guideline for social services marketing professionals targeting adolescents. Looking at the findings in relation to socializing agents, social services marketers can consider influencing the adolescents' eating habits through the parents. As government publicity was perceived as a relatively weak socializing agent, there is a need to review health education materials targeting adolescents. Looking at the findings in relation to different advertising appeals discouraging unhealthy eating, news and fear appeals should be considered, as these were considered relatively more likeable and effective than other types of appeals. 

Originality/value: The paper offers insights into designing communication strategies for adolescents. It is original in that it focuses on adolescents, and explores the perceptions of various socializing agents influencing healthy eating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-14
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Consumer Marketing
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2009

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Marketing

User-Defined Keywords

  • Adolescents
  • Health education
  • Advertising execution
  • China


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