Grocery Shopping Destination Choice and Obesity: an Empirical Study of Urban Population in Bangkok Thailand




Himathongkam, Tinapa

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The dissertation explores the effects of the food retail landscape in Thailand that has been going through a major transformation since the late 1990s on the population’s health. The rapid expansion of Western-format grocery outlets such as hypermarkets, supermarkets, and convenience stores was most evident in Bangkok, the capital city, at the same time that obesity rates have been rising. The research on the food retail industry has focused primarily on the economic effects of Western-format grocery store expansion such as the impacts on small-scale producers and the survival of traditional mom-and-pop stores. The role of Western-format grocery stores in increasing the availability and desirability of Western food products in the developing world, which has potentially significant health impacts, has rarely been looked at. The purpose of this study is to bridge this gap in the literature by looking at the relationship between the choice of grocery shopping destination and obesity using measures including body mass index (BMI), percent body fat (PBF), and waist circumference (WC). The findings suggest uneven distribution of food outlets in Bangkok. Sociodemographic characteristics also differ by shopper groups. Modern shoppers are significantly more likely to hold a graduate degree, live in a condominium, and live by themselves. Traditional shoppers are likely to be in the lowest income category, and mixed shoppers are likely to live in larger households with at least one child under the age of 18. Grocery destination choice alone does not appear to be associated with health behaviors, but frequent shopping does. Particularly, those who visit convenience stores three or more times a week are significantly more likely to eat fast foods (p<0.002), consume sweet drinks (p<0.003), consume alcohol (p<0.039), and sit 8 or more hours a day on average (p<0.012). These undesirable health habits have not translated into greater propensity to be obese as postulated. Surprisingly, those who frequent traditional markets (three or more times a week) appear to have significantly higher BMI (p<0.05) even after controlling for age, gender, education and health habits. Policy implications, recommendations, and future research directions are discussed.



Public policy, Nutrition transition, Obesity, Public health, Supermarket revolution, Thailand