Boba beware! Researchers in Beijing warn of an "emerging hazardous addiction problem of milk tea among youths"

In a new study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, lead author Diyang Qu—who works at the Vanke School of Public Health, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China and the Institute for Healthy China, Tsinghua University, Beijing, China—and colleagues warn of a "an emerging hazardous addiction problem of milk tea among youths." Here's the abstract:

Background:  Milk tea has experienced tremendous growth in popularity in China, especially among youths. The primary objective of this study is to investigate whether milk tea addiction may have a detrimental impact on youths' mental health, such as anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation. Additionally, we aim to explore its potential role in influencing various mental health outcomes.

Methods: A large-scale, cross-sectional study was conducted from 5281 college students in Beijing, China. Participants self-reported depressive, anxiety symptoms, suicidal ideation, and milk tea addiction symptoms including milk tea consumption, dependence, guilty feelings, withdrawal, tolerance, unable to stop, craving, and intention to stop.

Results: Nearly 77 % of participants consumed milk tea at least 6–11 cups in the last year. The confirmatory factor analysis (CFA) supported the one-factor structure of the milk tea addiction scale, developed according to DSM-5 substance use guidelines. Moreover, we found that a higher level of milk tea addiction was significantly associated with a higher risk of depression (b = 0.24, p < 0.001), anxiety (b = 0.21, p < 0.001), and suicidal ideation (b = 0.06, p < 0.001), respectively, after controlling confounding variables, among youths consuming milk tea. The possible mediating role of milk tea addiction between loneliness feelings and mental health outcomes was further addressed.

Conclusions and implications: Our findings highlighted that milk tea consumption might lead to addiction, and it is associated with depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. Current findings can assist policymakers in developing regulations such as restricting advertising, providing psycho-education, establishing food hygiene standards for such a prosperous youth-dominant consumption industry while protecting their mental health.

Comedian and actor Chris Fleming, creator of the "Boba Manifesto" song and video, apparently hasn't gotten the memo yet, as in the song he gleefully sings about drinking boba tea every day until he's 70. 

In all seriousness, though, the findings about milk tea addiction being correlated with higher risks of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation among youth are alarming–I hope more research is done to further understand this connection and to address it.

Read the full article here.