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Energy drinks: hype or hyper? a qualitative exploratory study involving children, parents and staff from schools in North East England

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shelina Visram


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Background: Globally the energy drinks industry is thriving, with sales estimated to be over $12.5 billion in 2012. These drinks generally contain high levels of caffeine and sugar and are promoted as giving the consumer more ‘energy’ than other soft drinks. Around one in three young people under 18 report regular consumption of energy drinks, but little research has been undertaken with this population to explore their use of these drinks. This study aims to investigate what motivates children and young people to consume energy drinks and what effects they are perceived to produce, in order to inform the development of tailored resources and interventions.Methods: Focus groups are underway with pupils (aged 10–11 and 13–14 years) from primary and secondary schools in North East England. Semi-structured interviews are also being undertaken with school staff and parents. All data are being transcribed verbatim and analysed using the constant comparative approach. Preliminary analyses and possible intervention options will be discussed with key stakeholders, including children and families, at one or more participatory workshops.Results: To date, six focus groups with pupils (n = 27) and interviews with eight school staff have been conducted. Emerging themes include the role of branding and marketing on young people’s choices, in addition to the influence of parents, siblings and peers. The data highlight similarities and differences between the children and young people’s views and those of the adult participants, as well as gender and age differences amongst the young people. There is heterogeneity in the motivations, perceived benefits and risks, and the health and behavioural effects associated with energy drink consumption. Suggestions have been put forward by participants to address these issues, and subsequent discussions will consider how these might work, and for whom.Discussion: Although data collection is ongoing, a number of important issues have already begun to emerge. These include the ease of access to energy drinks for under 18s, their awareness of the contents of these drinks, and the role of social norms in their decision to either consume or abstain. Given that this is the first in-depth UK-based study on this topic and, to our knowledge, the first study on energy drinks to involve younger children, we are confident that it will continue to generate findings of interest to diverse academic, practitioner and lay audiences.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Visram S, Crossley SJ, Cheetham M, Lake AA, Riby DM

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 59th Annual Scientific Meeting of the Society for Social Medicine (SSM)

Year of Conference: 2015

Pages: A79.2-A80

Print publication date: 01/09/2015

Online publication date: 01/09/2015

Acceptance date: 01/07/2015

ISSN: 0143-005X

Publisher: BMJ Group


DOI: 10.1136/jech-2015-206256.159