Washington: Digital marketing exposure increases the usage of energy drinks among adolescents, finds a study.
“Consumption of energy drinks is a public health concern in children and young adults because they may cause dental problems, cardiovascular and neurological issues, and in rare cases, death,” said lead author Limin Buchanan of University of Wollongong, Australia.
“Because Internet usage among this age group is so prevalent, digital marketing of unhealthy food and beverages may have a greater effect,” Buchanan added.
Energy drink users reported both greater exposure to and engagement with digital marketing than non-users. While exposure alone was not a significant predictor of energy drink usage, engagement with digital marketing did increase usage.
Examples of engagement include clicking on social media advertisements or playing an online game. This engagement also increased their attitude towards the normalcy of energy drinks and their perceived likelihood to use energy drinks when pressured by peers.
However, the study also showed that impact of digital marketing engagement was mediated by young adults’ attitudes against energy drink usage and its normalcy, indicating that enhancing nutrition education knowledge among these individuals may reduce the effects of such marketing.
“Public health professionals have advocated for stronger regulations on marketing unhealthy foods to children through traditional media,” said Buchanan. “This advocacy could be expanded to include restrictions on digital marketing to young adults based on current research.
Future nutrition education interventions may focus on strategies to lessen the appeal of energy drinks, denormalise energy drink use, and strengthen young adults’ ability to reject this drink option when with peers.”
The study appears in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.