Thesis title: Caffeinated energy drink use in adolescents and young adults: Associations with mental health, academic performance, and problem behaviour.
Supervisor: Prof. Andy Smith.
In recent years a meteoric rise in the popularity of highly caffeinated ‘energy drinks’, such as Red Bull and Monster, has allowed for the growth of a multi-billion dollar industry. Though serious health complications such as arrhythmias, tachycardia, stroke, psychotic symptoms, seizures, and even death have been associated with their consumption, these products continue to be aggressively marketed at youths and young adults. Marketing strategies include sponsoring extreme sporting events, producing cans and bottles that resemble those of alcoholic drinks, and providing products with names that stress effects comparable to stimulant drug use (e.g. ‘Cocaine’, ‘Blow’, ‘Full Throttle’) and implications of a sexual nature (e.g. ‘Pussy’, ‘Beaver Buzz’, ‘Pimp Juice’, ‘Bawlz’). My PhD aims to investigate the psychological effects of these products in secondary school children and undergraduate students.
Graduate Teaching Assistant (January 2016 - April 2016): Deliver weekly seminars and mark essays for two groups of first year undergraduate psychology students.
Neuroscience Postgraduate Tutor (January 2016 – April 2016): Run seminars and mark practical reports for two groups of second year neuroscience students.
Psychology Postgraduate Tutor (September 2012 - April 2015): Delivered seminars and marked practical reports for first year undergraduate psychology students.
Supervised a Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme (CUROP) summer intern (May - July 2013).
Accredited as an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA).
Selected publications (2014 onwards)
Full list of publications
Richards, G. (2015, December). Caffeinated energy drinks, children’s behaviour and school performance. Presented at the Adolescent Substance Abuse Conference, East Kilbride, UK.
Richards, G. (2015, July). Energy drinks, attendance, behaviour, and attainment in secondary school children. Presented at the PsyPAG 30th Annual Conference, Glasgow, UK.
Richards, G. (2015, May). Effects of caffeine consumption on wellbeing in secondary school children. Presented at the Speaking of Science 13th Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G. (2015, April). Skipping breakfast and consuming energy drinks: The perfect combination for getting detention? Presented at the Breaking Boundaries Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G. (2015, February). Why do we help each other? Three minute talk presented at Famelab Southwest Regional Final, Cardiff UK.
Richards, G. (2015, January). Energy drinks. Three minute talk presented at Famelab Cardiff Regional Heat, Cardiff UK.
Richards, G. (2014, May). Digit ratio (2D:4D) as a predictor of beliefs associated with schizotypy. Presented at the Speaking of Science 12th Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G., & Smith, A. P. (2014, May). Relationships between diet and mental wellbeing in undergraduate students. Poster presented at the Speaking of Science 12th Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G., & Smith, A. P. (2014, April). Dietary behaviour, attainment and wellbeing in undergraduate students. Poster presented at the British Feeding & Drinking Group 38th Annual Meeting, Portsmouth, UK.
Richards, G. (2013, November). Dietary effects on school performance. Presented at the Gregynog Annual Student Conference, Powys, UK.
Richards, G., Millward, N., Evans, P., Rogers, J., & Smith, A P. (2013, September). The effects of breakfast and energy drink consumption on attainment and attendance in secondary school children. Presented at the BPS Psychobiology Section Annual Scientific Meeting, Windermere, UK.
Richards, G., Millward, N., Evans, P., Rogers, J., & Smith, A P. (2013, July). The effects of energy drink consumption on attainment and attendance in secondary school children. Presented at the WISERD Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G. (2013, May). Could energy drinks cause your child to underperform at school? Poster presented at the Speaking of Science 11th Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G. (2013, March). Conspiracy theories, digit ratios, and schizotypal personality disorder. Presented at the Spotlight on Social Sciences 6th Annual Conference, Cardiff, UK.
Richards, G. (2012, March). Digit Ratio (2D:4D) in female elite soccer players. Presented at the BPS Welsh Branch 41st Annual Student Conference, Bangor, UK.
Richards, G. (2011, March). The effects of handedness on phonology. Poster presented at the BPS Welsh Branch 40th Annual Student Conference, Swansea, UK.
Research topics and related papers
Cornish Academies Project
In order to investigate associations between energy drink use and academic performance and mental health in young persons, a longitudinal study (consisting of two cross-sections collected six months apart) was conducted using a large cohort (N = 3071) of secondary school children from Cornwall. Findings suggest that, whilst controlling for other dietary, demographic, lifestyle, and socioeconomic factors, frequent consumption of energy drinks is associated with poor school attendance, attainment, mental health, and disruptive behaviour.
On-the-day detentions study
To assess the acute effects of diet on in-class behaviour, all children from the Cornish Academies Project who were given detention during a weeklong period in December 2013 were asked to state whether they had eaten breakfast that morning and whether they had consumed an energy drink during the day. These children were then asked to provide the same information on a control day later in the same week on which they had not been given detention. A combined effect was observed in which children were more likely to have skipped breakfast and consumed an energy drink on the morning that they received a detention compared to the day that they did not.
Cardiff University Student Studies
Three studies were carried out in order to assess the effects of diet on the academic achievement and wellbeing of young adults. The first study was of a cross-section of first and second year psychology students, and the second examined a cross-section of students from across the university who claimed to be frequent consumers of energy drinks. The third study aimed to investigate the effects of dietary change on mental health and academic performance by examining a cohort of first year psychology students longitudinally.
The Waterloo Foundation and Cardiff University School of Psychology: Three year PhD studentship.
Prof. Andy Smith (Cardiff University)
Dr. Kathleen Miller (University at Buffalo, NY)
Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams (University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus)
Dr. Michelle Lee (Swansea University)
John Galvin (Cardiff University)
Dr Sara Long (Cardiff University)
2008 - 2011: BSc Psychology (First Class Honours), Swansea University.
Thesis title: The effects of handedness on phonology.
Supervisor: Dr. Alan Beaton.
2011 - 2012: MSc Research Methods in Psychology (Distinction), Swansea University.
Thesis title: Digit ratio (2D:4D), schizotypal personality, and beliefs in non-scientifically supported phenomena.
Supervisor: Dr. Steve Stewart-Williams.
Awards & Honours
Student bursary to present at the 2016 European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association Conference.
Invited speaker at the 2015 Adolescent Substance Abuse Conference.
First Prize Presentation at the 2015 Breaking Boundaries Conference.
Postgraduate bursary to present at the 2013 BPS Psychobiology Annual Scientific Meeting.
First Prize Postgraduate Presentation at the 2012 BPS Welsh Branch Annual Student Conference.
Swansea University MSc course fees bursary.
Psychology Postgraduate Affairs Group (PsyPAG) Welsh Branch Representative
British Psychological Society (BPS) Graduate Member
BPS Welsh Branch Committee Member
European Human Behaviour & Evolution Association (EHBEA) Student Member
Research Assistant (October 2015 - December 2015), Cardiff University School of Psychology
- Project 1: Fatigue in train engineers (supervised by Prof. Andy Smith). Set up experiment and collected questionnaire and reaction time data from participants before and after shift work.
- Project 2: Causality and spatial perception (supervised by Dr. Ulrich von Hecker). Used Experimental Management System (EMS) to recruit participants and collect data for three studies investigating causality and spatial perception.
- Project 3: Energy drinks and mood (supervised by Prof Andy Smith). Briefed participants and ran experiment investigating the effects of an energy shot over a five-hour period.
Research Assistant (June 2012 - September 2012), Swansea University Department of Psychology
- Project title: Impulsivity and obesity (supervised by Dr. Michelle Lee). Recruited participants, set up experiments, and collected data for a PhD project investigating links between impulsive tendencies and obesity.