♫ The best part of waking up … Is chugging enough coffee to cancel out the fatigue of an all-nighter while “curing” the headache and jitters that develop after 12 caffeine-free hours ♫
♫ …. Is Folgers in your cup … ♫
(The less catchy yet more relatable remix!)
College students & coffee go together like Boomers & edgy Facebook memes, Gen Z & disturbingly dumb Tik Tok challenges, and Millennials &
crippling debt clean eating.
It’s the very reason Starbucks cafes are popping up on college campuses across the country and why students rush into class ten minutes late with a Dunkin’ cold-brew in hand (hmm…).
But just how deep is the love story between college kids and coffee?
These 15+ statistics are downright fascinating!
Students and Caffeine Consumption Statistics
- Ninety-two percent of college students consumed caffeine in the last twelve months.
- The average daily caffeine intake on college campuses is about 159 mg/d.
- Eighty-six percent of young adults admitted consuming caffeine within the last month, including coffee and espresso (69%) and energy drinks (36%).
- More than half of all college students include caffeinated beverages in their daily routines, with most preferring coffee over energy drinks.
- A survey of first-year college students reveals that 51% experience caffeine withdrawal symptoms while 83% lean toward the opposite extreme — caffeine intoxication.
- An astounding 98–100% of college students are caffeine connoisseurs.
The Top Caffeinated Beverages on College Campuses
The statistics on college students are out…
College is a four-year, booze-filled party for plenty of new adults experiencing “freedom” for the first time ever. (First and second-year students down about 14 alcoholic beverages a week).
But how else do undergrads hydrate?
According to the CDC, the 20–39 age group — including college-aged students — owes 50.5% of its fluid intake to water, with coffee coming in at a very distant 9.2%.
Yet, with all-nighters to pull, GPAs to maintain, and 8 a.m. lectures to attend, a 2019 survey revealed where college students resort for a quick pick-me-up.
These were the most popular caffeinated temptations on-campus:
|Caffeine Source||Percentage of College Students Who’ve Consumed It Within the Last Year|
The students relying on any source of caffeine during the semester were also more likely to be:
- Female (94.3% vs. 87.2% for males)
- Aged 16–19
- Middle or upper-class
- In fair/poor health
- Under or overweight
- Physically inactive
The Hidden Dangers of Caffeine
Saved by the Bell fans, you know exactly where we’re going with this one.
(Hint: ♫ I’m so excited ♫).
To say that students are obsessed with caffeine is an understatement of epic proportions. In fact, the average caffeine intake stands at 173 mg/d among those within the 92% club.
Now, the FDA regards <400 mg/d of caffeine as “safe.” But, then again, two alcoholic beverages a day (for men) also counts as “safe” by some standards.
But the problem with caffeine is that it can go in either direction: withdrawal — where your body and brain crave it after a period without using it — and intoxication — an overdose.
If you’re sensitive to caffeine or your body doesn’t metabolize it quick enough, too much and too frequent use could cause side effects like:
- Anxiety, jitters, and nervousness
- Difficulty sleeping
- Withdrawal symptoms, like nausea and headache (which could develop within 16 hours of quitting caffeine and last up to nine days for serious addictions)
- High blood pressure and rapid heartbeat
- Frequent urination and dehydration
- Muscle twitching or tremors
While certainly toxic, caffeine is rarely deadly unless you’re using caffeine powders, which could equate to 50–75 cups of coffee in a single teaspoon.
(Sleep deprivation among college students is way more common.)
But even modest caffeine intake puts you at risk of addiction or withdrawal symptoms.
A study of 16 caffeine-dependent people found that 94% experienced withdrawal, 81% wanted to limit their usage, and 94% continued using caffeine despite signs they should quit.
So do college students really love caffeine? Or are they splurging on coffee and energy drinks on impulse when withdrawal symptoms kick in, or a craving convinces them to visit Starbucks?
Coffee for College Students
- Twenty-two percent of all beverages chugged on college campuses are coffee, whether it’s canned (1.9%), a specialty drink (6.5%), or brewed (13.2%).
- Americans down about 400 million cups of coffee each day, and 92% of college students have joined the coffee craze.
- In America, the average cup of restaurant coffee costs about $2.99, though a 12-ounce cup from Starbucks is considerably more affordable — $1.95–$2.15.
How Much Do College Students Spend On Coffee?
Statista data from 2020 revealed an alarming spike in coffee consumption between the 18–19 age group and 20–24-year-olds, nearly doubling from 0.8 to 1.5 cups per day.
An 8-ounce cup of coffee costs about $2.99 — or about $4.49 per day for 1.5 cups.
In a week, the average college student will dump $31.43 into their brewed indulgences. By the end of the 15-week fall or spring semester, this spending climbs to $471.45.
At this consistent pace, students will have poured (pun intended) $3,771.60 into coffee purchases by the time they walk the stage at graduation.
And, this number doesn’t include coffee purchased during fall, winter, spring, or summer break.
That $3771.6 price tag is equivalent to:
- A used 2016 Nissan Sentra
- 23.3 months of gasoline for your vehicle
- 1.67 semesters’ worth of college meal plans
- 3.43 months’ rent for a one-bedroom apartment
- 4.32 brand new iPhone 12s
When 66% of college students have <$1,000 in their savings accounts, that measly $4.49 per day sure snowballs into a lot!
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Why Students Drink Coffee
- “To feel awake” is the most common reason college students turn to coffee (79%).
- About 68% of students confess to enjoying the taste of coffee.
- Thirty-nine percent appreciate the “social aspect” of coffee.
- Improved concentration is a top contender for 31% of students.
- Another 27% crave the physical energy boosts that caffeine provides.
- Eighteen percent of university students enjoy the mood-boosting benefits of coffee.
- A smaller 9% of respondents identify coffee as a satisfying stress-reliever.
- Coffee is the most popular caffeine source amongst college students at 64%.
- College students pinpointed studying (29.8%) and pleasure (43.9%) as their primary caffeine triggers.
- Students with depressive or anxiety symptoms or in their fifth year of college were more likely to consume caffeine — and in larger amounts.
Why Students Really Drink Coffee
Coffee is simply part of the college routine. A latte or cappuccino is a satisfying “cure” to the morning grog, afternoon fatigue, and pre-night-class drowsiness.
But aside from the near-instant energy boost 15 minutes later, what is it about coffee that makes it so damn hard to resist?
In a word: addiction.
Caffeine is one of the most addictive yet legal substances in the world (yet drinking five mocha lattes is less controversial than chain-smoking five cigarettes or tipping back five vodkas).
With ~95 mg of caffeine per cup, 4.2 servings of coffee a day is “safe” in that the habit probably won’t land you in the back of an ambulance or in a morgue.
But it can lead to physical and mental dependence.
That’s because caffeine encourages the brain to release more dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates the brain’s reward system and induces a sense of euphoria (like drugs).
The brain enjoys this “high” and craves it. Meanwhile, the liver and brain become more tolerant to the stimulant, requiring a higher intake to notice the same feel-good effects.
But caffeine isn’t the only addictive culprit here.
The bitter taste of coffee is one we learn to appreciate as we get older. And, when we link the mood and energy-boosting effects of coffee to the pungent taste, we learn to crave it.
Research also shows that some of your favorite coffee ingredients are equally as addictive to caffeine; for example:
- Salted caramel is physically addictive, releasing chemicals in the brain that leave you weak to temptation and seeking more
- Chocolate and its sugar and fat content that do the same (to a lesser scale)
- Coffee creamer
That first coffee dopamine release will make you feel good, and the caffeine will give you some much-needed pep in your step before finals.
But after years of consistent use, are you really drinking coffee to “wake up,” concentrate, or relieve stress? Or because you’ve convinced yourself you can’t survive an all-nighter without it?
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What Percent Of College Students Drink Coffee?
Ninety-two percent of college students drink coffee in any given year, though 40% of all 18–24-year-olds consume America’s favorite beverage each day. Coffee is also one of the top drink choices amongst undergraduates. When asked about their #1 pick-me-up, 52.4% of students chose coffee.
Why Do College Students Drink Coffee?
The most common reasons college students drink coffee — according to a survey of 1,248 undergraduates — are:
- To “wake up” (79%)
- Because they enjoy the flavor (68%)
- For the social benefits (39%)
- To improve their focus (31%)
- For a quick energy boost (27%)
- To elevate their mood (18%)
- To reduce stress (9%)
Does Caffeine Impact Study Habits Of College Students?
Caffeine can impact the study habits of college students. Research suggests that 200mg of caffeine after a study session can improve memory. Steady caffeine intake during all-nighters also has positive effects on cognitive functioning. Yet, the resulting sleep deprivation may reduce performance.
Coffee is like anything in life: okay in moderation but not immune to spiraling into an out-of-control habit.
Are you ready to curb your coffee habit and energize your body the right way?
- Drink more water, hydro homies.
- Follow an exercise routine.
- Get more restful sleep.
- Up your protein intake.
- Go outdoors, bask in the sunlight, and touch the grass.
- Look for low-caffeine yet energizing beverages, like green tea or yerba mate.
More importantly, don’t join the caffeine fad in the first place! Perfecting your study and sleep habits is easier than weaning off of an addictive substance that’s changed your brain chemistry.
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