Urban v. suburban perceptions of the neighbourhood food environment as correlates of adolescent food purchasing

Mary O. Hearst, Keryn E. Pasch, Melissa N. Laska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Objective To assess the relationship between adolescent perception of time to walk to neighbourhood food retail outlets and purchasing of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB), fast and convenience food items, and to test for differences by urban v. suburban environment. Design Cross-sectional observational study. Setting Twin Cities Metropolitan Area, Minnesota, USA. Subjects Adolescents from two studies completed survey-based measures on perceptions of time to walk to food retail outlets from home, purchasing patterns of SSB and fast and convenience store items, perceptions of personal safety and pedestrian infrastructure, and demographic characteristics. Descriptive analysis, Spearman correlations and multivariate linear regression, accounting for clustering, were conducted.Results There were 634 adolescents, approximately half male, predominantly white, with a middle-class background. Greater perceived time to food outlets was associated with less frequent purchasing of SSB, convenience store foods and fast-food items. Multivariate models showed that a perceived shorter walking time (i.e. 1-5 v. 31+ min) was significantly associated with more SSB purchasing. SSB purchases were also significantly associated with the number of food outlets within a 10 min walk (B = 0•05, P = 0•02). Conclusions A reduction in consumption of SSB and other energy-dense snacks is an important obesity prevention approach. An approach offering alternatives or reducing exposure in addition to education to alter purchasing habits may contribute to improving dietary habits and reducing the obesity epidemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)299-306
Number of pages8
JournalPublic health nutrition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2012


  • Adolescent
  • Fast food
  • Neighbourhood environment
  • Purchasing behaviour
  • Sugar-sweetened beverages


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