Characteristics and factors influencing fast-food intake of young adult consumers from different socio-economic areas in Gauteng, South Africa

Van Zyl, Maryke Karin (2009-03)

Thesis (MNutr (Human Nutrition))--University of Stellenbosch, 2009.


INTRODUCTION: The aim of this study was to determine the characteristics of and factors impacting on the intake of fast-foods by young adults from different socio-economic areas in Gauteng, South Africa. The population for the study (n = 341) included males (n = 180) and females (n = 161) with a mean age of 24.48 years (SD = 3.492). METHODS: A descriptive cross-sectional, observational study was performed using an interviewer-administered, validated questionnaire to elicit characteristics of the studied population (gender, education level, income status and income level), reasons for – and frequency of – fast-food intake, specific food choices at certain categories of fast-food outlets, as well as consumers’ attitude towards health and healthier meal options. Purposive sampling of shopping malls was done to collect data on three weekend days at grocery stores in the shopping complexes. Statistical analysis included: Pearson Chisquare tests, likelihood ratios, linear by linear associations and Cramer’s V and Kendall tau b tests. RESULTS: The studied population consisted primarily of working young adults with at least secondary education. Almost half (n = 103) of the employed participants from all socio-economic groups earned less than R5 000 per month, but spent more than R200 each month on fast-food. The majority of participants consumed take-away meals from two to three times a month to two to three times per week (85.3% (n = 291)). Socio-economic grouping (SEG) and gender were significantly related to fast-food intake (p < 0.01) with a larger proportion of participants (n = 76) in the lower socio-economic grouping (LSEG) showing more frequent use and males consuming fast-food more frequently than females. The most popular fast-foods consumed by participants in descending order were burgers 69.5%, pizza 56.6% and fried chicken 38.4%. A significant difference in the consumption of fried chicken was observed between the different SEGs, with significantly more participants from the LSEG consuming fried chicken 47.0% (p < 0.05). Choice of fast-food outlet concurred with the most popular fast-food choices. Sweetened soft drinks comprised the most popular beverage for more than half of the studied population (n = 191). The main reasons for choosing fast-food were time limitations (58.9%), convenience (58.2%) and taste (52.5%). The majority of participants were concerned about health (93.3%), with almost half of the total sample being always concerned. The majority of participants indicated concern about overweight and obesity (44.3%). Seventy-eight percent of participants indicated that they would choose a healthier option, if available. Television provided the most effective media influence on food choices. CONCLUSION: The findings of the study show a clear discrepancy between fast-food intake and health consciousness, indicating a gap between knowledge and practice. In the light of the spread of the obesity epidemic in South Africa, further research on fast-food consumption in other areas in South Africa and in other age groups (especially children and adolescents) is strongly recommended.

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