Fast Food Ads Make Us Sad and Here’s How To Feel Better

Seeing fast food logos and advertisements can reduce people’s capacity to enjoy life’s pleasures, says a new study. Canadian researchers found that, when people were exposed to fast food symbols (in particular, those of McDonald’s), they were less able to enjoy beautiful pictures of nature and also beautiful music.

Even though fast food restaurants are “designed to improve well-being by minimizing time spent on mundane chores,” just seeing the Golden Arches “may ultimately undermine the surplus leisure time they permit,” according to the researchers.

The reason? The very sight of fast food logos actually sets off “a sense of impatience” that can “prevent people from savoring the enjoyable moments life offers serendipitously,” as Julian House, Sanford E. DeVoe and Chen-Bo Zhong of the University of Toronto write in the study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

Whether we are in a city or a suburb, or anywhere in the world, it’s hard to avoid seeing the Golden Arches, Starbuck’s green mermaid or advertising for fast food restaurants. Given the ubiquity of fast food businesses around us, we don’t have to eat a single French fry to feel out of sorts, according to the study.

A German artist in Cologne has an antidote. He’s been whiting out parts of fast food billboards and putting recipes on them, a straightforward way to remind people that, yes, there are plenty of other things to eat than a McProduct.

Instead of the “King des Monats,” the “king of the month” burger, the unknown artist suggests turkey and zucchini fried rice or spaghetti. As FastCoExist notes, “it just goes to show that while fast food companies may market themselves based on convenience, it really isn’t that much harder to keep some putenschnitzel (turkey) and zwiebeln (onions) in the fridge.”

Granted, fried rice isn’t the most healthy item to eat. But the artist’s “revisions” of fast food billboards more than make the point that “food doesn’t have to be super-processed to be convenient.”

Making your own meals takes time but doing so of course lets you know what is in the food you’re eating. If you’re someone who likes cooking, the simple tasks of chopping vegetables or stir-frying them can be relaxing in and of themselves. Being mindful while making your meal is the very likely the opposite state of mind that of a fast food worker frying up frozen potato strips and worrying about how they’re going to make a living wage.

Companies are so aware of the unappealing tasks that fast workers tasks do that McDonalds offers tips telling workers how to deal with stress via its “McResource Line” website:

“Chewing gum can reduce cortisol levels by 16%”; “At least two vacations a year can cut heart attack risk by 50%”; “Singing along to your favorite songs can lower your blood pressure”; and “People who attend more church services tend to have lower blood pressure.”

These suggestions for fast food employees to in essence “whistle while they work” more than suggest that working in a fast food restaurant for very low pay is not only stressful, but very bad for workers’ health.

In the time you’re waiting in the drive-thru line (and being bombarded by fast food ads) while some less than happy worker fills your order, you could be assembling the ingredients for a simple pasta dish with a salad that uses up your leftover vegetables. Which do you think will make you happier?

Photo from Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven11 months ago

thanks for the article.

Panchali Yapa
Panchali Yapa3 years ago

Interesting. Thank you

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz3 years ago

Thank you

Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz3 years ago

Thank you.

Julianna D.
Juliana D3 years ago

They DO make me sad!

Marie W.
Marie W3 years ago

I ignore them.

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle3 years ago

Looking at fast food ads doesn't depress me. I just don't eat what they are trying to sell.

vicky T.
vicky T3 years ago

They only make me sad because i crave the food while knowing the cruelty that lies behind it

Andrew Pawley
Past Member 3 years ago

Horrible stuff but strangely addictive.

Brandon Van Every

I don't buy that looking at fast food advertizing makes me depressed. I *do* find myself feeling rather unenthused and put off when I drive through the "strip mall" areas that have lots of such fast food restaurants all piled up. Usually I see it as blight on the landscape of humanity, a representation of collective boredom, rather than a ready provision of services and relief from effort. But these are my personal views and maybe some stressed out Mom is just Lovin' It [TM] that she's going to have her kid's dinner in hand in another 5 minutes. Whatever. When I actually use McD's, it's usually as a source of free wifi. I rarely pay them. Sometimes out of guilt for all the free wifi I've taken from them, and because man and dog happen to be hungry, I'll buy several McDoubles on the dollar menu. I never go anywhere else, McDs gets my rather minimal biz because they're consistent about providing wifi everywhere.