A UK student survey examined the motivations for consuming energy drinks alone and mixed with alcohol, and aimed to determine whether the type of motive had a differential effect on overall alcohol consumption.
The online survey (N = 1873) assessed alcohol consumption and motivations for consumption when mixed with energy drinks (AMED) and mixed with other non-alcoholic beverages (AMOB) using a within-subject design.
The most frequent neutral motives reported for AMED consumption included “I like the taste” (66.5%), and “to celebrate a special occasion” (35.2%). 52.6% of AMED consumers reported consuming AMED for at least one of five negative motives, primarily “to get drunk” (45.6%). Despite these negative motives those students reported consuming significantly less alcohol and fewer negative alcohol-related consequences on AMED occasions compared to alcohol-only (AO) occasions. Although the motives for consuming AMED and AMOB were comparable, more participants reported consuming AMED “to celebrate a special occasion”, “to get drunk”, because they “received the drink from someone else” or “because others drink it as well”. However, significantly more students reported consuming AMOB than AMED because “It feels like I can drink more alcohol”. Alcohol consumption was significantly less on AMED occasions compared to AMOB occasions, and both occasions significantly less than AO occasions.
The majority of reasons for consuming AMED relate to neutral motives. Although 52.6% of students reported one or more negative motives for AMED consumption (predominantly “to get drunk”) this had no differential effect on total alcohol consumption. The differences in motives suggest AMED is consumed more to enjoy special occasions and as a group-bonding experience, however alcohol consumption is significantly lower on such occasions in comparison to when AMOB or AO are consumed.