Economic preferences and fast food consumption in US adults: Insights from behavioral economics

Kerem Shuval, Michal Stoklosa, Mark C. Pachucki, Amy L. Yaroch, Jeffrey Drope, Matthew Harding

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective To examine the relationship between economic time preferences and frequency of fast food and full-service restaurant consumption among U.S. adults. Methods Participants included 5871 U.S. adults who responded to a survey conducted in 2011 pertaining to the lifestyle behaviors of families and the social context of these behaviors. The primary independent variable was a measure of time preferences, an intertemporal choice assessing delay discounting. This was elicited via responses to preferences for an immediate dollar amount or a larger sum in 30 (30-day time horizon) or 60 days (60-day time horizon). Outcomes were the frequency of fast food and full-service restaurant consumption. Ordered logistic regression was performed to examine the relationship between time preferences and food consumption while adjusting for covariates (e.g. socio-demographics). Results Multivariable analysis revealed that higher future time preferences were significantly related to less frequent fast food intake for both the 30- and 60-day time horizon variables (P for linear trend < 0.05; both). Notably, participants with the highest future time preference were significantly less likely to consume fast food than those with very low future time preferences (30-day: OR = 0.74, 95%CI: 0.62–0.89; and 60-day: OR = 0.86, 95%CI: 0.74–1.00). In comparison, higher future time preferences were not significantly associated with full-service restaurant intake (30-day: p for linear trend = 0.73; 60-day: p for linear trend = 0.83). Conclusions Higher future time preferences were related to a lower frequency of fast food consumption. Utilizing concepts from behavioral economics (e.g. pre-commitment contracts) to facilitate more healthful eating is warranted using experimental studies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)204-210
Number of pages7
JournalPreventive Medicine
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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