STUDY: Correlates of Infrequent Plain Water Intake Among US High School Students: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017

A new study coauthored by researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health assessed the factors associated with infrequent plain water intake among U.S. high school students. The authors found infrequent plain water intake was associated with younger age, poor academic grades, poor dietary behaviors, and physical inactivity.

Teenagers in the school lunch line

Adolescents are the highest consumers of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). Regular consumption of SSBs is associated with weight gain, obesity, chronic disease, poor academic achievement, and low diet quality. In contrast, drinking plain water (i.e., tap, bottled, and unflavored sparkling water) can help mitigate these effects and improve health outcomes. To develop and implement strategies to increase plain water intake among U.S. adolescents, understanding the factors associated with plain water intake is important.

The authors used data from the national 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a school-based survey measuring health-risk behaviors among U.S. high school seniors. They examined students’ answers to the survey question, “During the past seven days, how many times did you drink a bottle or glass of plain water?” and looked at demographic, academic, and behavioral characteristics that were associated with the frequency of plain water intake.

Key findings from the study included:

  • Overall, almost half (49%) of high school students reported infrequent water intake, which researchers defined as drinking plain water less than three times/day.
  • Researchers identified several factors associated with infrequent water intake, including:
    • younger age
    • poor academic grades
    • poor dietary behaviors and
    • physical inactivity
  • Students with obesity were less likely to have infrequent water intake

The findings can inform strategies aimed to increase plain water intake and promote healthy lifestyles among adolescents.

Suggested Citation: Park S, Onufrak SJ, Cradock AL, et al. Correlates of Infrequent Plain Water Intake Among US High School Students: National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, 2017. Am J Health Prom. 2020 Jun;34(5):549-554. doi: 10.1177/0890117120911885. Epub 2020 Mar 18.

Address correspondence to Sohyun Park, PhD,