Reducing Unhealthy Normative Behavior: The Case of Sports and Energy Drinks

Michael Hennessy, Amy Bleakley, Morgan E. Ellithorpe, Erin Maloney, Amy B. Jordan, Robin Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


American adolescents consume more sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) than any other age group. Sports and energy drinks consumption among adolescents is higher than other SSBs. For sports drinks, there is uncertainty about their “healthiness” and also beliefs that these drinks may provide health benefits such as hydration, enhanced athletic performance, heightened mental alertness, and rapid recovery after exercise. Confusion about relative healthiness and expectations of health benefits suggest that factors that may encourage youth to avoid drinking sports and energy drinks, such as athletic status, psychological reactance, and SSB media literacy, may necessitate different approaches to promoting avoidance of sports drinks compared with avoidance of energy drinks. Using a nationally representative U.S. probability-based web panel augmented by a volunteer nonprobability-based web panel of 500 adolescent participants aged 14 to 18 years, we used the reasoned action approach to model intention to avoid sports and to avoid energy drinks. The result show there are similarities and differences in the determinants associated with adolescents’ avoidance of sports and energy drinks: attitudes and descriptive normative pressure are both related to increased avoidance for both types of drinks and perceived control over the avoidance behavior is positively associated for with intention to avoid for energy drinks. Sport identification, psychological reactance, and SSB media literacy also play a different role in the sports and energy drink models. Based on our results, the content of prevention messages in interventions to limit sports drinks will need to be quite different from those targeted at reducing energy drink consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)394-405
Number of pages12
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


  • energy drinks
  • reasoned action
  • sports drinks
  • sugar-sweetened beverages


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