A new study from Italy attempts to get a fuller picture of how mas media impacts health habits, and finds that television, print media and the Internet may be commonly associated with decreasing physical activity, but they also inform people on positive behaviors such as healthy eating.
Researchers at the Fondazione di Ricerca e Cura Giovanni Paolo II (John Paul II Foundation for Research and Treatment) in Campobasso analyzed data from a sample of more than 1,000 people as a part of the Moli-sani Project, an epidemiological study of 25,000 subjects in Molise, a southern region of Italy.
The report is published online in the International Journal of Public Health.
“Scientific literature has mainly focused on television viewing, considered a risk factor for health mainly because it represents a measure of physical inactivity,” said Marialaura Bonaccio, first author of the study.
Watching TV is often linked to physical inactivity and snacking, with negative effects on obesity, a major cardiovascular risk factor.
“In our study we paid attention to the capacity of people to get informed by using mass media, including the Internet and newspapers or magazines. We sought to see whether most informed people had better eating habits than those less exposed to information.”
In addition to collecting standard information from study participants (medical information, lifestyle, dietary habits, etc) individuals also completed a specific questionnaire on mass media usage, from TV viewing to newspaper and magazine reading and surfing the Internet.
In turn, researchers created a score of mass media information exposure and discovered exposure to multiple media sources was associated with lifestyle improvement, said Americo Bonanni, head of the science communication unit of the Research Laboratories.
“We focused on eating habits, mainly on Mediterranean diet,” Bonanni said. “Results have shown that people most exposed to information delivered by any mass media source, reported higher adherence to the Mediterranean-like eating patterns. The latter are considered the most effective eating model for reducing the risk of chronic and neurodegenerative diseases.
“In particular, people who were more informed reported higher consumption of some key foods of the Mediterranean diet pyramid, such as fruits and fresh fish, and a lower consumption of less healthy food such as animal fats.”
Investigators say the next step will be to evaluate each source of information and study how the Internet is changing the way people, especially the youngest, get informed on health topics.
Source: Catholic University – Campobasso