The college student caffeine craze

Why are college students consuming so much caffeine and what are the impacts of this craze?

Photo by Alexa Christie | Metro Coffee is one of the more popular coffee shop for students on the Tacoma campus.

With midterms this week and last, I’m sure many students are familiar with the long nights of studying and overwhelming amounts of work. This is almost always followed up by extreme exhaustion. What is a tired and overwhelmed college student to do to get through their day? Well, many turn to caffeine. Whether it’s a Dr. Pepper, an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks, or a Red Bull, everyone has their choice of a pick-me-up. Could these drinks that help us get through the day be causing more issues for us?

In a study published by Clinical Nutrition in 2019, the survey they used reported that nearly 92 percent  of college students consumed some type of caffeinated beverage on a regular basis. While there were an array of reasons and beverages the participants had reported, one thing in particular, stood out to me. Many of the participants also admitted that they regularly spent over 100 dollars on caffeine in a given month. I myself am guilty of this and will admit I probably spend more than that on caffeine in a month. 

The University of Washington Tacoma is not excluded from this caffeine craze. With two cafes on campus, Starbucks and Metro Coffee, and numerous vending machines dispensing energy drinks and coffee, there is a lot of access to caffeine. I see student after student with some sort of beverage that most likely has caffeine, especially if they have a cup from Starbucks where everything is caffeinated – and I mean everything. 

While caffeine has its benefits and uses, it also has its disadvantages. Many participants reported they use caffeine for energy and better focus, but for some, the exact opposite is what can occur. Instead of being energized and focused on the task at hand, they are maybe tired and even a bit antsy or unfocused. Increased caffeine use can also lead to sleep issues, which can have its own impacts on physical and mental health. 

Without enough sleep, students are less focused and unable to make it through their day, which then leads to buying a coffee on the way to class. They also are more likely to experience mental and physical health issues like anxiety and depression. All of this creates a cycle that can be difficult to escape. 

Now, I know it would be unfair to say “Don’t drink coffee” without offering some alternative. Getting sleep, eating regular meals, and drinking water are a step to moderating caffeine consumption. Oftentimes when you are tired and unfocused you think you need a coffee, but in reality you probably need to eat something. With busy schedules it’s not always possible to do everything we need to feel our best, so having some extra snack bars in your bag is always a good idea. 

In short, that Red Bull or iced caramel macchiato won’t kill you, but it might be best to be mindful. As always, it’s not about completely cutting it out, it’s about moderation. It’s also important to be getting enough sleep as caffeine can only help so much. 

Photo by Alexa Christie