North Carolina Kids Report Consuming 2K Sugary Drinks & 3.5K Unhealthy Snacks Each Year, Associated with 1.3K Hours of Screen Time

News | March 21, 2019


Kaitlin Ugolik Phillips, MS 919-445-6157

North Carolina Kids Report Consuming 2K Sugary Drinks & 3.5K Unhealthy Snacks Each Year, Associated with 1.3K Hours of Screen Time
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Morrisville, NC (March 21, 2019) – A group of researchers from ECU’s Brody School of Medicine have found that each hour of screen time per day is associated with approximately 172 servings of sugary beverages and 368 servings of unhealthy snacks per year. On average, student participants reported 1,312 hours of screen time, 2,073 sugary beverages, and 3,485 unhealthy snacks per year. Body mass index (BMI), meanwhile, did not appear to be associated with extra screen time.


The researchers used 2015 survey data from Motivation Adolescents with Technology to Choose Health (MATCH), a middle school-based initiative aimed at preventing adolescent obesity. MATCH measured the screen time and sugary beverage and unhealthy snack consumption of 7th-grade students in 12 different low-income school districts in North Carolina. The survey asked the teens to answer questions like, “About how many hours each day are usually spent using some form of technology with a screen?” and “How often did you drink these beverages in the past week?”


Based on the self-reported results, each week 2,763 participants from 26 middle schools spent an average of 25 hours in front of screens, consumed a mean of 40 sugary drinks, and ate unhealthy snacks 67 times. On average, boys reported consuming more sugary beverages than girls, but there was no difference in sex for reported consumption of unhealthy snacks. Black participants (33% of those surveyed) reported a significantly higher average of total sugary beverage consumption than white or other participants, and also reported eating more unhealthy snacks.


“More research is needed to understand the pathways linking screen time with unhealthy snacking behavior in adolescents to inform future interventions,” the authors wrote. “Since our results indicated that total screen time was not associated with BMI z-score in this sample, there may be other behavioral, environmental, and/or emotional factors that should be considered when examining this relationship.”


To read the article, Examining the Association Between Screen Time, Beverage and Snack Consumption, and Weight Status Among Eastern North Carolina Youth by Kristie Hicks, Stephanie Jilcott Pitts, Suzanne Lazorick, Xiangming Fang, and Ann Rafferty, visit


The North Carolina Medical Journal is a journal of health policy analysis and debate co-published by the North Carolina Institute of Medicine and The Duke Endowment. The NCMJ publishes six issues per year. This issue is co-sponsored by Medical Advocates for Healthy Air. To learn and read more, visit