Food and Behaviour Research

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Soft Drink Consumption and Mental Health in Adolescents: A Longitudinal Examination

Mrug S, Jones L, Elliot M, Tortolero S, Peskin M, Schuster M (2020) Journal of Adolescent Health 2020 Jul 4;S1054-139X(20)30291-3 doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.05.034 

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Purpose: Previous studies showed associations between soft drink consumption and mental health problems in adolescents, but the direction of these effects is unknown. This study examines the hypotheses that soft drink consumption predicts aggression and depressive symptoms over time and that these mental health problems predict soft drink consumption.

Methods: Interviews were conducted with 5,147 children and their caregivers from three sites at child ages 11, 13, and 16. At each time point, youth reported on their frequency of consuming soft drinks, aggressive behavior, and depressive symptoms. An autoregressive cross-lagged path model tested reciprocal relationships between soft drink consumption, aggressive behavior, and depressive symptoms over time.

Results: More frequent consumption of soft drinks was associated with more aggressive behavior at each time point and depressive symptoms at ages 11 and 13 (r = .04 to .18, p ≤ .002). After adjusting for covariates and stability of each behavior over time, soft drink consumption at ages 11 and 13 predicted more aggressive behavior at the next time point (β = .08 and .06, p < .001). Aggressive behavior at age 13 also predicted more soft drink consumption at age 16 (β = .06, p = .002). Soft drink consumption at age 13 predicted fewer depressive symptoms (β = -.04, p = .007), but depressive symptoms did not predict soft drink consumption.

Conclusions: More frequent consumption of soft drinks may contribute to aggressive behavior in adolescents over time; there is some support for reciprocal relationships. There is no evidence for soft drink consumption contributing to adolescents' depression. Future research should examine longitudinal effects over shorter intervals.


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