Soda Linked to Aggression, Violence in Teens
Previously Identified Health Risks
Modern scientific research ties high soft drink consumption to increased risks for a number of significant health problems. For example, adults, teens and younger children who consume even relatively small amounts of soft drinks as part of their regular diets have significantly increased chances of gaining enough weight to eventually qualify as obese. In turn, obese people have increased chances of developing heart disease, the joint disorder called gout and type 2 diabetes (among other health problems). Apart from any obesity-related risks, regular soft drink consumption also independently increases a person’s chances for developing these disorders.
Aggression and Suicidal Behavior
In a study published in 2012 in the journal Injury Prevention, researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont examined the statistical connection between non-diet soft drink consumption and the chances for participation in aggressive or violent behavior among a group of almost 1,900 teenagers enrolled in high school in Boston. The authors of this study concluded that teens who drink six or more servings of soft drinks per week have substantially increased risks for doing such things as acting violently toward their peers or members of the opposite sex, acting violently toward their parents or other family members, or regularly arming themselves with some sort of weapon. These risks remain even when other factors that can play a role in violence or aggression-—including gender, ethnic background, substance use, sleeping behaviors and level of family participation—-are taken into account.
In a second study, published in 2013 in the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, the same research team used information from a nationwide project called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey to examine the connection between soft drink intake, displays of aggression and suicidal behavior among teenagers. The researchers concluded that, in addition to aggression-related risks, teens who drink large amounts of soft drinks have significantly increased chances of becoming depressed, thinking about suicide or actively making suicide attempts. The researchers also concluded that these chances grow larger as soft drink intake rises.
A statistical link between two facts does not mean that those facts are causally connected; indeed, factors that appear simultaneously in the same person often have nothing to do with each other. The authors of the studies published in Injury Prevention and the International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion point out this possibility, and also note that no one know really knows if increased soft drink consumption actually causes an increase in aggression, violent behavior and suicidal behavior. However, if there is a causal connection between these factors, doctors and researchers may someday use awareness of such a connection to improve the detection of violence- and suicide-related risks in teen populations.