Energy drinks, race, and problem behaviors among college students

J Adolesc Health. 2008 Nov;43(5):490-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2008.03.003. Epub 2008 Jun 16.


Purpose: This study examined relationships between energy drink consumption and problem behaviors among adolescents and emerging adults. It was hypothesized that frequent consumption of energy drinks would be positively associated with substance abuse and other risky behaviors, and that these relationships would be moderated by race.

Methods: Cross-sectional, self-report survey data were collected from 602 Western New York undergraduate students in the spring of 2006. Differences in problem behaviors by frequency of energy drink consumption were assessed with multivariate linear and logistic regressions, controlling for gender, race, age, parental education, and college grade point average. Follow-up regressions were conducted to test for a moderating effect of race.

Results: Frequency of energy drink consumption was positively associated with marijuana use, sexual risk-taking, fighting, seatbelt omission, and taking risks on a dare for the sample as a whole, and associated with smoking, drinking, alcohol problems, and illicit prescription drug use for white students but not for black students.

Conclusions: These findings suggest that energy drink consumption is closely associated with a problem behavior syndrome, particularly among whites. Frequent consumption of energy drinks may serve as a useful screening indicator to identify students at risk for substance use and/or other health-compromising behavior.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Beverages*
  • Caffeine / administration & dosage*
  • Caffeine / adverse effects
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Energy Metabolism / drug effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York
  • Racial Groups
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Students / psychology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Universities
  • Young Adult


  • Caffeine