Undergraduate college students drink more water when it is clearly labeled and visible to them, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University.
The study intervention added a small sign above the soda dispenser’s water button to increase visibility of the water dispenser. Researchers surveyed the students before and after the intervention, and conducted focus groups after to discuss students’ drinking habits and assess any changes in water consumption habits.
After the intervention, students drank water more frequently, and more students reported having chosen water for their meal. Clearly labeling the water’s location was successful in prompting students to drink more water.
The researchers also found that the location of the water button on the soda dispenser discouraged water consumption. Students reported choosing soda or other sugary drinks instead of water because they were readily available to them when they went to select a drink. The researchers recommend clearly labeled independent water dispensers.
Typically, healthy beverage and habit promotion efforts are targeted at younger children, as habits formed during childhood persist into adulthood. However, the transition out of high school and into college is another formative opportunity for developing sustainable healthy habits, underscoring the importance of assessing environmental factors that encourage older students to consume soft drinks rather than water.