Why (not) alcohol energy drinks? A qualitative study with Australian university students

Authors

  • SANDRA C. JONES,

    Corresponding author
    1. Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
      Sandra C. Jones BA, MBA, MPH, MAssessEval, PhD, Director, Lance Barrie BSc, MPH, Research Manager, Nina Berry BA/BEd(Hons), DipArts(Phil), Associate Research Fellow. Professor Sandra C. Jones, Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4221 4209; Fax: +61 2 4221 3370; E-mail: sandraj@uow.edu.au
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  • LANCE BARRIE,

    1. Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
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  • NINA BERRY

    1. Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Wollongong, Australia
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Sandra C. Jones BA, MBA, MPH, MAssessEval, PhD, Director, Lance Barrie BSc, MPH, Research Manager, Nina Berry BA/BEd(Hons), DipArts(Phil), Associate Research Fellow. Professor Sandra C. Jones, Centre for Health Initiatives, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave, Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia. Tel: +61 2 4221 4209; Fax: +61 2 4221 3370; E-mail: sandraj@uow.edu.au

Abstract

Introduction and Aims.Alcohol energy drinks (AEDs) are a recent entry to the ready-to-drink market, but there is an absence of research into the reasons young people consume these products and their consumption-related experiences. The aim of the current study was to investigate university students' perceptions of, and experiences with, pre-mixed AEDs.

Design and Methods.Four focus groups with undergraduate university students in a large regional city in New South Wales; with transcripts coded for key themes.

Results.Participants reported a number of benefits of AED consumption, many of which were similar to other ready-to-drinks, such as taste and image. However, the primary benefits of AEDs related to their capacity to wake the drinker up at the beginning of the evening and facilitate partying and drinking over a longer period. Many of the participants reported experiencing or observing negative effects from drinking AEDs, some quite severe, but this did not appear to act as a deterrent to their consumption.

Discussion and Conclusions.Given the popularity and perceived benefits of AEDs—and evidence from previous research that their consumption is associated with increases in intoxication levels, risky behaviours and harmful alcohol-related consequences—there is a need to consider a range of strategies to reduce harmful consumption of AEDs. While educational interventions may be of benefit, there is also a role for regulation of the packaging and marketing of a product that is associated with substantial harms.[Jones SC, Barrie L, Berry N. Why (not) alcohol energy drinks? A qualitative study with Australian university students. Drug Alcohol Rev 2012;31:281–287]

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