As I was perusing Facebook recently, I came across an article shared by a friend, endearingly entitled, “STUDY FINDS PEOPLE WHO ENJOY ENERGY DRINKS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BE ASSHOLES“. Intrigued, I clicked on the link to read more.
It turns out that the study, published in November 2015 in Health Psychology, was created with the objective of investigating “the relationship between masculinity ideology, outcome expectations, energy drink use, and sleep disturbances.” Researchers surveyed 467 adult males ranging in age from 18-62 with a series of online questions. The survey focused on three distinct topics, inquiring:
- The participants’ belief in or agreement with statements of ‘traditional masculine ideology’, like “‘I think a young man should try to be physically tough, even if he’s not,’ and, ‘Men should not be too quick to tell others that they care about them.'”
- How much or little they believed that drinking the energy drink would result in good outcomes for them (good outcomes could be better athletic performance, more energy, increased risk-taking desire, etc.).
- Sleep patterns and habits of the participants.
After compiling the data, researchers claimed to have found “associations” between the factors in question. They say that men who endorsed more stereotypically masculine (a.k.a. not always politically correct) beliefs also expected that energy drinks would bring them more positive outcomes (like can be seen on commercials for said energy drinks), which in turn led them to have increased consumption of the drinks, in the end making them more likely to experience “sleep disturbance symptoms”. The researchers conclude the study by suggesting that believing in above-mentioned “traditional masculinity ideology” can have negative health consequences for men.
After reading the conclusion of the study, I realized that the article hadn’t accurately portrayed what was happening in the study at all. While I realize that the article comes from a source whose Facebook description says “We’re not serious”, the title was mostly clickbait, not a good representation of the science being done. In any case, the actual conclusion of the study did not astound me much either. They found a correlation between male beliefs, energy drink consumption, cool. Is this surprising, considering the amount of advertising money spent by energy drink companies to attract a heavily masculine demographic? The study was only correlational, and we’ve been learning all semester how correlation does not equal causation! There is definitely opportunity for reverse-causation here, there is currently no evidence whether drinking energy drinks makes you more likely to believe stereotypically masculine ideas, or if having those beliefs makes you more likely to drink energy drinks. The aspect of sleep disturbance also seemed to be a side-focus of this study. In my opinion, they had too much stuff going on in this research. If they were to do a follow-up experiment, they would need to choose an aspect to focus on, either the connection between thought process and drink consumption or the effect of drink consumption on sleep patterns or health.
Side note: As I closed out of the article, I found myself grateful of the scientific eye I was now observing the world with due to this class. It really reinforced the “don’t believe everything you see on the internet” adage. Stay in school, kids.