Erasmus School of Economics (Rotterdam)
Webinar – 11:30
Does media exposure affect health behaviours? And how? We exploit the idiosyncratic switchover to digital television across Italian regions which exogenously increased the number of free view national channels and we link this to high-frequency data on the supply of food-related contents on the TV. We find that increased exposure to these contents improved the size and the composition of households’ food baskets and, in particular, caused a reduction of expenditure on food high in fats and carbohydrates and an increase on food high in protein. Consistently with such a change in food basket composition, we also document a significant reduction in BMI among individuals more exposed to food-related TV contents which is not explained by any change in physical activity. Finally, we find support for the imitation and learning-by-watching mechanism as driving our results, by documenting a significant increase in the volume of Google and YouTube searches for recipes and video-recipes. Our findings question the health-related negative stereotypes often associated with TV exposure and highlight its potential as a brand-new health policy lever.