Smith AP (2009). Caffeine, cognitive failures and health in a non-working community sample. Hum Psychopharmacol;24:29-34.

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Most studies of the effects of caffeine on performance have been conducted in the laboratory and further information is required on the real-life effects of caffeine consumption on cognition. In addition, possible effects of caffeine consumption on a range of health outcomes should also be assessed in these studies to enable cost-benefit analyses to be conducted.


Secondary analyses of a large epidemiological database (N = 3223 non-working participants, 57% female, with a mean age of 49.6 years, range 17-92 years) were conducted to examine associations between caffeine consumption (mean caffeine consumption was 140 mg/day, range 0-1800 mg) and cognitive failures (errors of memory, attention and action) in a non-working sample. Associations between caffeine consumption and physical and mental health problems were also examined.


The study involved secondary analyses of a database formed by combining the Bristol Stress and Health at Work and Cardiff Health and Safety at Work studies. Associations between caffeine consumption and frequency of cognitive failures and health outcomes were examined in a sample of non-workers.


After controlling for possible confounding factors significant associations between caffeine consumption and fewer cognitive failures were observed. Initial analyses suggested that many health variables were associated with regular level of caffeine consumption. However, most of the significant effects of caffeine disappeared when demographic and lifestyle factors were controlled for. Consumption of caffeine was, however, associated with a reduced risk of depression. These effects were also observed in separate analyses examining the source of the caffeine (coffee and tea).


Overall, the results show that caffeine consumption may benefit cognitive functioning in a non-working population. This confirms earlier findings from working samples. This beneficial effect of caffeine was not associated with negative health consequences. Indeed, consumption of caffeine was found to be associated with a reduced risk of depression.

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