Fast food may have just as much influence on our psychological as our physical health, reports Sanford E. DeVoe in The New York Times (6/3/14). At issue is our ability to be patient, which Sanford says is affected by the "speed and instant gratification" of fast food. In a series of studies, participants were prompted "with reminders of fast food," and then given tasks to complete. Those exposed to the fast food prompts hurried through the tasks and reported "less happiness from savoring a beautiful opera duet," for example.
Another study established a link between impatience and the number of fast-food restaurants in a given neighborhood: "the more prevalent fast-food restaurants in the neighborhood were, the less likely respondents were to report savoring a set of experiences, even when controlling for economic factors of the individual and the neighborhood." Further study found a link between "the prevalence of fast-food restaurants and financial impatience."
To determine whether the relationship was causal, Sanford and his team at the University of Toronto "turned to data from a nationally representative panel," spanning a decade and found that "the prevalence of nearby fast-food restaurants were associated with changes in people’s savings." In other words, says Sanford, "one important step you can take to nudge yourself toward being more patient would be to live in a neighborhood that doesn’t constantly bombard you with reminders of instant gratification."