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Nearly 37 percent of Americans regularly eat fast food, study shows

December 6, 2018

Atlanta — Every day, more than 1 in 3 U.S. adults eat some type of restaurant fast food, according to a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics.

Researchers reviewed 2013-2016 data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. They found that, overall, 36.6 percent of adults – about 85 million – consumed fast food, including pizza, on a given day. The percentage was higher for people between the ages of 20 and 39 (44.9 percent) and 40 and 59 (37.7 percent). Those 60 and older were least likely to consume fast food, at 24.1 percent.

Although fast-food consumption decreased with age, it rose along with family income. Among lower-income adults (equal to or less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level), 31.7 percent consumed fast food on a given day. As family earnings rose to middle income (130 percent to 350 percent of FPL), consumption jumped to 36.4 percent. Of those in the high-income range (more than 350 percent of FPL), 42 percent consumed fast food on a given day.

Other findings:

  • The most common fast-food meal purchased was lunch (43.7 percent), followed by dinner (42) and breakfast (22.7).
  • Time, financial resources, price and availability factored most in influencing fast-food purchases.
  • Men (48.3 percent) were more likely than women (39.1) to eat fast food for lunch.
  • Women (25.7 percent) were more likely than men (19.5) to consume fast food for a snack.

Fast-food consumption has been associated with increased intake of calories, fat and sodium, which can lead to obesity, diabetes and other health issues, according to the researchers.

The report was published in October.