Study: Loneliness Can Lead to Drinking Sugary Beverages

Most of us know that soda isn’t a good thing–full of sugar and not so full of nutrients, it’s decried as empty calories. Juice is basically the same–full of sugar and lacking the fiber and many nutrients the whole fruit would have.

But did you know that if you feel lonely, you are more likely to drink something sugary? In a study out of Norway, researchers observed a positive relationship between loneliness and the consumption of cola, soda, and sweet juices–and I only mean positive in the mathematical sense.

Now, some data-disclaimers: the study was observational in nature. Those who have been following along (or have taken Stats 101) will know that since it wasn’t a randomized, experimental trial, we cannot draw a cause-and-effect relationship between these two things. There is just a statistically significant correlation between loneliness and the increased consumption of empty liquid calories. Additionally, this research was conducted on women early on in their pregnancy–and you know, food cravings. It is possible that the data researchers found only applies to pregnant women and not the whole population.

We also have to remember confounding variables–or additional variables that correlate with the independent and dependent variables. In this case, studying women in the early stages of pregnancy, the caffeine in many sodas, and other ingredients in the sodas and juices (like citric acid) could be confounding variables in this study trying to show that people who feel socially excluded need more glucose and thus turn to the closest thing most people have a sugar-water IV: soda and juice.

It is important to note that the researchers were trying to find evidence for the social baseline theory–basically, as part of  social group, people use less glucose through brain activity because the group shares the load for things like vigilance and emotional regulation (through emotional support) than an individual trying to do the same thing.

While the researchers are looking for evidence of a biological theory, we the public are probably more concerned with correlation found in the study: if you are lonely, you are more likely to drink soda, statistically speaking. Loneliness is no good for you and your health–it affects so much of what we do, even our eating habits. For those who are feeling a little down and out in terms of social circles, this week make a date with your best girlfriend, get the gang back together, or try out that club–you know the one–you have been so interested in checking out. We know that friendship is good for the soul, and it’s good for your health in so many more ways than one.

It’s the end of summer now and so many people are getting back to school. Why not pick up the phone and call your bestie from camp, the class mate who changed schools last year, or your girlfriend rocking the college thing 2,000 miles from home?

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