A randomised experimental study comparing perceptions of two energy drink health warning labels

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ISSUE ADDRESSED: Consumption of energy drinks is a public health concern, particularly in adolescents and young adults. This study explored energy drink consumers' reactions to an energy drink-specific warning label (risk of cardiac effects) and a more general sugary drink warning label (risk of obesity).

METHODS: An online experimental study randomly allocated Australian energy drink consumers aged 18-39 years (N=435) to view one of two label conditions (cardiac effects or obesity). Participants were assessed on: intention to reduce energy drink consumption, perceived health threat, perceived label effectiveness and policy support for energy drink warning labels.

RESULTS: Mean intentions to reduce consumption scores were similar across the two label conditions (M obesity =2.5, M cardiac =2.6) overall; and were higher for the cardiac label (compared to obesity label) for some subgroups: females (M obesity =2.3, M cardiac =2.8; p=.037), older (25-39 years; M obesity =2.4, M cardiac =2.8; p=.016); and higher education level (M obesity =1.9, M cardiac =2.7; p=.004). While perceived health threat measures were higher for obesity than cardiac effects, perceived label effectiveness measures of "believable" and "relevant to me" were higher for the cardiac label than the obesity label (believable: 71.0% vs 56.1%; relevant: 42.5% vs 29.4%). Participants who viewed the cardiac label were more likely to support policy than those shown the obesity label (OR=1.6, 95%CI [1.1,2.3], p=.02).

CONCLUSIONS: Health effect warnings labels were perceived by energy drink consumers to be impactful and are supported. Labels with energy drink-specific health effects may offer additional benefit.

SO WHAT: Policy makers can feel confident that warning labels on energy drinks will confer public health benefit. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHealth Promotion Journal of Australia
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 28 Aug 2022

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