Military’s Energy Drink Consumption May Contribute To PTSD, Other Mental Health Problems In Soldiers

Cans of energy drinks are displayed in the grocery store.
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Military personnel often turn to energy drinks to help combat the effects of sleep deprivation. Consumption of energy drinks thus became prevalent among service members as nearly half of deployed troops drink at least one of these energy-boosting beverages per day.

The findings of a new study have suggested that excessive use of these drinks may contribute to long-term mental and physical ailments.

Researchers of the study published in the Military Medicine journal surveyed more than 600 male infantry soldiers seven months after their return from a year-long combat deployment to Afghanistan.

The questions given to them were designed to examine a potential link between energy drink consumption and mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcohol abuse.

The researchers found that over the course of the month leading to the survey, more than 75 percent of the participants consumed energy drinks, and 16 percent of them continued to consume at least two energy drinks daily in the post-deployment period.

The researchers also found that mental health problems, which include PTSD, anxiety, depression and alcohol abuse, were strongly associated with high levels of energy drink use, which the study classified as consuming two or more drinks per day.

Photo shows a Red Bull energy drink.
  Jack Taylor / Getty Images

Mental health problems are known to afflict many members of the military. Depression and PTSD, in particular, are among the most common mental health problems that returning troops face.

Those who suffer from PTSD often suffer from flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping, and feeling emotionally numb, which can significantly impair daily life.

The researchers also found that use of energy drink was associated with fatigue. It is not clear if fatigue was caused by the energy drinks, or this prompted their use. The findings of the study suggest that use of energy drinks may potentially exacerbate, instead of alleviate, fatigue.

Earlier research has also shown that people who drink three or more energy drinks a day were more likely to report sleep disruption linked to stress and illness.

“High energy drink use was reported by one in six soldiers and was significantly related to mental health problems, aggressive behaviors, and fatigue in a military population following a combat deployment,” study researcher Robin Toblin, from the U.S. Public Health Service, wrote in the study, which was published on August 28.

The researchers said that messaging regarding energy drinks needs to encourage moderation and highlight the drink’s links with negative health outcomes.