Identifying when and where people overeat is important for intervention design, yet little is known about how unhealthy behaviours unfold in real life.
To track the activities, social contexts and locations that co-occur with unhealthy snacking.
Sixty-four adults (49F, mean age = 38.6 years) used electronic diaries to record snacking, location, social context and current activity every waking hour over 7 days. The proportion of snacking episodes that co-occurred with each location/activity/context was calculated by group and individual.
Over the group, snacking was most frequent whilst socialising (19.9% of hours spent socialising) or using the TV/computer (19.7%), when with friends (16.7%) and when at home (15.3%). All intra-class correlation statistics for cued behaviour were low, indicating the importance of within-person variability. There were marked individual differences between people in what constituted a ‘typical’ context for snacking.
People show substantial differences in the contexts in which they snack. Tailoring interventions to these individual patterns of behaviour may improve intervention efficacy.