Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Thesis Format

Integrated Article


Master of Arts




Gilliland, Jason A


Most Canadian adolescents have diets high in fat, sodium, and free sugar. There are concerns among researchers and policymakers that food and beverage marketing has an adverse impact on adolescent dietary attitudes, knowledge, and behaviours. The food environment plays an important role in shaping diets and health. The food information environment, and more specifically outdoor food and beverage advertising, may have an effect on adolescent food and beverage purchases. This thesis investigates the associations between the availability of, accessibility to, or exposure to outdoor advertising and retail food outlets, coupled with attitudes related to food and beverage consumption, and purchases at retail food outlets by adolescents in a mid-sized Canadian census metropolitan area. Findings are relevant to policymakers and practitioners at all levels of government and improve on prior research related to retail food and beverage marketing.

Summary for Lay Audience

Food and beverage consumption patterns are recognized as a major driver of short-term physical health, wellbeing, and academic performance among teenagers. Drinking and eating patterns can also influence a person’s long-term health and wellbeing. Moreover, recent changes to Canada’s Food Guide and regulatory efforts on advertising by all levels of government has placed eating and drinking behaviours, and food and beverage advertising, at the forefront of health research in Canada. This thesis explores how outdoor advertising may shape purchases at fast food outlets, restaurants, grocery stores, variety stores by teenagers in London, Ontario, Canada. A systematic review of previous studies on outdoor food and beverage advertising found no definitive link to dietary behaviours in any population. There are limited effects from a high availability of, accessibility to, or exposure to outdoor food and beverage advertising among teenagers in their home environment, with the strongest associations between fast food and variety store advertising and purchasing. Outdoor advertising around schools seems to have more of an effect on food and beverage purchasing than advertising near home or on the journey between home and school. The most important factor in purchasing for teenagers uncovered by this analysis is attitudes towards healthy eating, cooking, and packing lunch. Future research should focus on isolating the effects of outdoor advertising on purchasing behaviours with studies that use methods that measure exposure and engagement, rather than the accessibility or availability of advertising. All levels of government should pivot their efforts towards policies and programs that foster healthy eating behaviours, cooking skills, nutritional literacy, and equal access to healthy and nutritious food in schools rather than focusing on the regulation of food and beverage advertising.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 License.