An observational study on the impact of caffeine and anxiety in college students.

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Observing students on a college campus, it is not hard to see signs of anxiety in students. College students’ have the compounded stress of numerous classes, assignments, jobs, and maintaining relationships, which may lead to losing sleep and turning to caffeine to help. Caffeine is a substance commonly used in an attempt to alleviate anxiety and exhaustion, particularly in young adults (Hughes, 1996). However, some side effects of caffeine can mimic or amplify the symptoms of anxiety (Sawyer et al., 1982). The goal of this research was to assess if there is a positive correlation between observed caffeine intake and anxious behaviors. This study was conducted through a naturalistic observational design where participants (N = 60) were observed in the Adele H. Stamp Student Union and McKeldin Library. Participants were coded on the seconds spent drinking from their caffeinated beverage and seconds spent exhibiting an anxious behavior such as leg bouncing, playing with hair, and zoning out. We found that students exhibited significantly greater amounts of anxious behavior when their time spent drinking caffeine increased. These findings indicate that students may benefit from being made aware of this negative effect of caffeine consumption and educated on caffeine alternatives, such as adequate sleep, hydration, or meditation instead. However, keeping in mind this was an observational study, we can not assess causation and this was an observational design that had a limited definition of caffeine consumption and anxious behaviors. To better assess these effects, future research should assess participants in an experimental environment.