Department of Management

Who may convince technical college students to eat healthily? A mixed methods study

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterResearchpeer-review

Socio-economic inequality in youth health is transferred into adulthood. Promoting healthy eating at vocational college is therefore a priority and challenge for public authorities. Information campaigns often fail reaching the target group, who may be more receptive to ‘alternative’ strategies of health promotion. Social norms influence behavior, but very few studies discriminate between the sources of these influences, beyond family and peers. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceived acceptability and effectiveness of direct social influence on healthy eating by students attending technical college.

An exploratory sequential mixed methods design was applied, in which the results of focus group studies were used to feed into the design of a survey study and results of both studies integrated. For the first study, students (n=36) at four different schools participated in six focus groups. Participants discussed barriers and facilitators to healthy eating, and reflected on the influence of persons varying in proximity to the student, and on mass media campaigns. For the second part, students (n=1095) participated in an online survey which included an experimental set-up in which participants were presented one of five situations, varied in terms of a ‘sender’ (teacher/close friend/partner; overweight/not overweight) encouraging a fictive technical college student to eat more healthily. Students evaluated the perceived acceptability and effectiveness of the health promotion attempt by the ‘sender’. Descriptive norms were also measured.

Results suggest the proximity of the social influence is central for encouraging healthy eating; students reported to be more responsive to a partner than to a teacher, while the sender’s weight status did not seem to matter (but the respondent’s weight status mattered). Also, parents’ role modelling is import. Though social influence was self-reported, the projective approach and convergence of qualitative and quantitative data support the importance of close others for healthy eating habits.
Original languageEnglish
Publication yearJul 2019
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019
EventPangborn 2019: 13th Sensory science symposium - Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 28 Jul 20191 Aug 2019


ConferencePangborn 2019: 13th Sensory science symposium
CountryUnited Kingdom

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