Food and Behaviour Research

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Young adolescents’ perceptions, patterns, and contexts of energy drink use. A focus group study

Beth M. Costa, Alexa Hayley, Peter Miller (2014) Appetite   Elsevier Ltd

Web URL: Find the article on the Appetite website here


Caffeinated energy drinks (EDs) are purported to increase energy and improve performance, but have been associated with adverse health effects and death. EDs are popular among adolescents and young adults, yet little is known about their use among young adolescents.

This study explored perceptions, patterns, and contexts of ED use in six focus groups with 40 adolescents aged 12–15 years from two regional Australian schools. A thematic analysis of the data was used to investigate knowledge about ED brands and content, ED use, reasons for ED use, physiological effects, and influences on ED use. Participants were familiar with EDs and most had used them at least once but had limited knowledge of ED ingredients, and some had difficulty differentiating them from soft and sports drinks. EDs were used as an alternative to other drinks, to provide energy, and in social contexts, and their use was associated with short-term physiological symptoms. Parents and advertising influenced participants’ perceptions and use of EDs.

These findings suggest young adolescents use EDs without knowing what they are drinking and how they are contributing to their personal risk of harm. The advertising, appeal, and use of EDs by adolescents appear to share similarities with alcohol and tobacco. Further research is needed to replicate and extend the current findings, informed by the lessons learned in alcohol research.