Teenagers and Coffee
Caffeine and Your Teen

The Growing Trend of Teenagers and Coffeeteenagers and coffee

It's no secret that when it comes to teenagers and coffee, the trend is one that's spreading like wildfire.  In fact, according to the National Coffee Association, young people are now the fastest growing population of coffee drinkers.  Whether the enthusiasm is fueled by the social aspect; the caffeine craving to make up for lack of sleep and too much time in studying, sports and late nights; the idealism of pop culture, or a thousand other possible influencing factors, the numbers all say the same thing.  Teens are drinking more coffee every year and continually starting at a younger age.

Powerful Statistics

According to the American Dietetic Association, when it comes to teenagers drinking caffeinated beverages, the number has tripled since the 1970's.  It also reports that teens purchasing coffee in cafes or restaurants jumped by 12% last year.  And, when you consider that Americans are currently consuming around 350 million cups of coffee every day and a growing percentage of that number is being consumed by teens, the numbers are a bit staggering.  According to a study done in 2011 by the firm NPD, 10% of all visits to gourmet coffee shops were by consumers under 18 years of age.  Last year, that number was 13%.  And, not only are more teens starting to drink coffee, research is showing that they're also likely to be life-long coffee drinkers.  In 2002, 24% of 18-24 year olds drank coffee.  By 2010, that number was at 37%.

Spreading to the Schools?

Not only can teens find coffee in any number of the readily accessible coffee shops in small towns and cities alike, now even the teens' schools themselves are capitalizing on the market.  A highschool in Texas was studied in depth in an article for Food Service Director, stating that they have now completed three years of running a very successful coffee shop within the school.  Not surprisingly, the most popular beverages are those loaded with milk and flavorings.  In terms of price and sales, options run between $3 to $5 and the shop currently completes around 300 transactions daily.  And, to bolster up the coffee shop even further, the teens are even receiving gift certificates from their teachers as rewards and incentives.

This particular school is certainly not the only highschool capitalizing on the market, and many schools are willing to point out that the teens were showing up to the school with coffee already in hand so why not offer a selection on school grounds? 

The Effects

Market and demand aside, let's take a look at what the research shows.  Is this trend good/bad/unimportant?  If you're a parent of teen with a slight addiction to caffeine, chances are good you aren't interested in the unimportant category.  But, for both sides the debate is strong and heated.

There are many parents and researchers alike that will make the argument that not only is a cup or two of coffee not deterimental, it may be, in fact, beneficial.  Probably the most uncontroversial ideas include the benefits of caffeine that can help students stay more alert during schoool hours as well as re-fuel and re-energize for sporting events and practices.  Parents and teens alike also promote coffee shops as safe hangout places.  They provide a social gathering spot that's hip and trendy, but that keep teens out of trouble and allows parents some peace of mind. 

If you want to go a step further, according to Lawrence Wilson, MD, in his article "Coffee -- Its Advantages and Disadvantages" for The Center of Development:

Today, in fact, some health professionals recommend coffee, even for teens, because studies reveal that it helps with constipation and, in fact, reduces the incidence of Alzheimer's disease, cirrhosis of the liver and perhaps other health conditions.  Coffee apparently contains some antioxidants, polyphenols and other chemicals that are beneficial for the body.  Coffee can also help people stay alert for studying, driving and other activities.  Also, by speeding up the oxidation rate, coffee can help a person to remain balanced emotionally and mentally.

The Cons of Coffee and Teenagers

On the other hand, if you were to sit down with Roland Griffiths, caffeine expert and professor of psyhocology and neuroscience at John Hopkins University, you'd be confronted with his statement:

Caffeine is likely the world's most-used mood-altering drug and it does produce mood changes and physical dependence and withdrawal.  It needs to be regonized as a drug.

Not only do studies suggest that caffeine is known to disrupt teenagers' sleep cycles, which can lead to issues like poor moods, agression, impusliveness, and loss of behavioral control, Griffiths goes on to report that "caffeine withdrawal can trigger headaches, lethary, inability to concentrate, irritability, depression, mood changes, and in some cases: nausea, vomitting or achy flu-like symptoms.

Teenage Girls and Coffee

One of the other biggest concerns when it comes to coffee and teenagers is the relation between young teen girls turning to coffee as a replacement for food in hopes of losing weight.  And, with stick thin celebrities and stars who frequent magazine covers perusing Hollywood with a light latte in hand, it's not hard where to imagine these girls are getting their inspiration.  Not only can coffee act as a temporary appetite suppressant, it can give energy to girls who aren't otherwise taking in enough calories to have stable energy levels, allowing them to continue down sometimes very dangerous eating paths.  

Caffeine and Your Teen: Coffee vs. Soda Debate

It's only logical that if you're going to make an argument one way or another for caffeine and it's effect on teens, you have to look at the other big contributor: soda.  Clearly, schools across the nation have been selling pop in vending machines for years.  But, when you look at the numbers, there's not a lot of comparision.  A 16 oz. Starbucks coffee will contain roughly 320 milligrams of caffiene.  To get the same equivalent of caffeine from a can of Coke, you'd have to drink nine 12 oz. cans.  

The Bottom Line of Coffee and Teenagers

When it comes down to it, there are undeniable positives and negatives for both sides of the argument relative to coffee and teenagers.  Is it addictive?  Potentially.  Is it life-threatening?  Probably not.   What are your thoughts?  Do you allow your teens coffee?  Do you limit their intake?  Support coffee group gatherings?  Support coffee in the school? Share your thoughts, who knows, you might just get us to put your input into a new article.

MSNBC.  today.msnbc.msn.com/id/24123703/ns/today-parenting.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.
DR. Wilson.  drlwilson.com/ARTICLES/COFFEE.htm.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.
Ayushveda. ayushveda.com/magazine/coffee-its-health-benefits.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.
Cofei.  cofei.com.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.
CBSNEWS.  cbsnews.com.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.
Food Service Director.  fsdmag.com/operations-feature-stories/coffee-is-cool-in-school.html.  Retrieved 2011, April 25.