To explore knowledge, attitudes and behaviours regarding caloric soft drinks in a group of young adults attending university and to identify opportunities for a health promotion intervention aimed at reducing consumption.
In-depth, semi-structured focus groups segmented by gender.
Undergraduate University of Sydney students aged 18–30 years (n 35).
Social and environmental cues, intrinsic qualities of beverages and personal health beliefs were identified as important influences on consumption. Social cues included settings in which alcohol is usually consumed, socialising with friends, and family influences. Environmental cues included purchasing of fast foods, and ready availability, preferential pricing and promotion of caloric beverages. Reinforcing intrinsic qualities of caloric soft drinks included taste, sugar and caffeine content, and their association with treats and rewards. Major gender differences as well as variations in individual readiness for behaviour change were observed. Raising awareness of the sugar content of various beverages and the potential health impacts associated with their consumption was considered important.
The findings provide new insights with important implications for policy and practice, and suggest that there is considerable scope for promoting awareness in this group. Carefully designed social marketing campaigns highlighting the health issues and addressing social and environmental cues relating to caloric soft drink consumption are required. There is a need for gender-differentiated intervention programmes which are both informational and appealing to young adults. Further research is warranted, particularly to investigate beverage consumption relating to fast-food meal deals and young adults’ consumption patterns in more depth.