Childhood Obesity and Unhappiness: the Influence of Soft Drinks and Fast Food Consumption.

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Hung-Hao Chang Æ Rodolfo M. Nayga Jr.
Published online: 21 March 2009
_ Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009
Abstract A growing body of literature has examined the determinants of childhood obesity, but little is known about children’s subjective wellbeing. To fulfill this gap, this paper examines the effects of fast food and soft drink consumption on children’s overweight and unhappiness. Using a nationwide survey data in Taiwan and estimating a simultaneous mixed equation system, our results generally suggest a tradeoff in policy implication. Fast food and soft drink consumption tend to be positively associated with children’s increased risk of being overweight but they are also negatively associated with their degree of unhappiness. Current and future policy/program interventions that aim to decrease fast food and soft drinks consumption of children to reduce childhood obesity may be more effective if these interventions also focus on ways that could compensate the increase in degree of unhappiness among children.

Keywords Unhappiness _ Childhood obesity _ Fast food _ Soft drink _ Taiwan 1 Introduction
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that obesity has become a growing threat to human health both in developing and developed countries (World Health Organization 2000). The prevalence of childhood obesity is also of increasing public concern around the world. For example, in Taiwan, childhood obesity has increased dramatically over the past decades. In 1970, only about 2% of Taiwanese school-children were considered obese. By 1988, this figure has risen to 17% (Wu 2001). To date, one in every four H.-H. Chang (&)

Department of Agricultural Economics, National Taiwan University, No 1, Roosevelt Rd Sec 4, Taipei 10617, Taiwan
e-mail: hunghaochang@ntu.edu.tw
R. M. Nayga Jr.
Department of Agricultural Economics and Agribusiness, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701, USA
e-mail: rnayga@uark.edu
123
J Happiness Stud (2010) 11:261–275
DOI 10.1007/s10902-009-9139-4
children is now considered overweight in Taiwan (Taiwan Medical Association for the study of obesity (TMASO) 2007).
Childhood obesity is a major public health problem that has both individual and environmental causes. Among all of the factors that may be related to children’s body weight, the promotion of healthy eating has become a target of health promotion and research programs (Ludwig et al. 2001). Consequently, a number of nutrition and public health studies suggest the importance of examining the influence of fast food consumption on children’s weight (e.g., Bowman et al. 2004; Hsieh and FitzGerald 2005; Hui et al. 2003). In addition to fast food consumption, the association between children’s soft drinks (i.e., sugar-sweetened beverages) consumption and obesity has also been discussed in the literature (e.g., Andersen et al. 2005; Ariza et al. 2004; Berkey et al. 2004; Forshee et al. 2004; Troiano et al. 2000). Some studies suggest that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages leads to higher energy intakes, which may place children at risk for excess weight gain and obesity (Andersen et al. 2005; Anderson et al. 2003; Troiano et al. 2000). However, empirical evidence found in the previous studies is still inconclusive. For instance, based on data consisting of 10,371 children drawn from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Survey, Troiano et al. (2000) found that soft drinks contributed to high proportions of energy intakes among overweight children. In contrast, the results presented by Andersen et al. (2005) using data from 3,139 children in Norway showed an insignificant association between consumption of soft drinks and overweight. Little is known as well about the relationship between fast food and soft drinks consumption as well as the extent to which these consumption behaviors may affect children’s subjective wellbeing or happiness. Addressing the association between children’s subjective wellbeing and...
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