The present research aimed to describe perceptions and behaviours around the consumption of water and sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) by youths.
A formative, qualitative study which conducted four focus groups. Transcripts were analysed and themes related to reasons youths drink SSB and water, and conversely do not drink SSB and water, were analysed to reveal thematic clusters around sensory factors, environment and policy, access, marketing and role model influences, and health risks.
A rural, tri-ethnic community in New Mexico, USA.
Middle- and high-school students, parents and teachers.
Although youths and adults were aware of the health risks of soda, they did not translate this information to other SSB, including sports drinks and sweetened tea. Moreover, their perceptions of risks of dyes outweighed their concern with sugar. Youths and adults were aware of water’s health benefits, but they focused on short-term benefits. Youths and adults perceived water as unappealing. Adults were also concerned with water safety and access.
This formative research has implications for decreasing SSB consumption and simultaneously increasing water intake among youths in rural communities. Addressing unique access and safety concerns related to water in rural communities, as well as increasing awareness of the risks of all types of SSB, can work together in a positive feedback loop to change perceptions and behaviours with long-term health consequences. Specific policy suggestions include strengthening school policies to restrict all types of SSB and water promotion efforts that address access, safety and health benefits.