Exploring the pros and cons of coffee
With coffee coming second only to water as the most popular drink in the world, it is unsurprising that the UK consumes approximately 98 million cups of coffee a day. Coffee machines find themselves as the centre piece of most offices, with 84% of workers having at least one cup a day.
Organisations have begun to recognise that coffee breaks are not just a waste of time. Instead, they offer an opportunity to recharge, catch up with colleagues and get our caffeine fix which all contribute to greater productivity, work satisfaction and overall wellbeing.
The Pros of Coffee
Coffee is most well-known for boosting our energy levels and increasing alertness, but it also has some surprising health benefits. A review of people drinking between 0 and 5 cups of coffee a day found that there is a 6% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes for each cup of coffee consumed. It is believed that this is because coffee preserves the function of vital cells in the pancreas as well as being rich in antioxidants. Some studies also suggest a relationship between coffee consumption and reduced risk of Parkinson’s disease, decreased body fat and lower risk of depression.
Caffeine affects the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain; specifically leading to an increase in those associated with positive mood, such as dopamine and serotonin. It’s effect on areas of the brain responsible for memory and concentration has led researchers to find that caffeine can increase the speed at which you learn, enhance memory, lead to faster problem solving and improve reaction times.
Creativity and Caffeine
Contrastingly, the usefulness of caffeine is debated when it comes to creativity. Some studies suggest that caffeine does not aid creative thinking. Researchers have hypothesised that creative thinking is facilitated by a less attentive and more relaxed state which is a stark contrast to the effects of caffeine. Yet others suggest that caffeine is still valuable in the creative processes that follow idea generation. Other studies also found that getting coffee with a colleague or sitting in a coffee shop increases creative problem solving and abstract thinking as we get fresh perspectives and the ambient noise in coffee shops can make it more difficult for the brain to process information.
The negative effects of caffeine
Although caffeine reaches peak levels within 30-60 minutes of consumption, it’s half-life of 5-7 hours means that it’s effects can last much longer than expected. This can lead to caffeine disrupting the sleep cycle and preventing a good night’s sleep. For many of us, the solution to a bad night’s sleep is... a cup of coffee. Unfortunately, even though caffeine can help us pay attention, it fails to negate the drop of efficiency in task which occurs when we are tired, and it does not help to prevent errors.
Does Coffee Cause Anxiety?
Caffeine has also been shown to exacerbate stress or anxiety for those facing difficult times and can have undesirable effects on the digestive system and bladder. It is important to remember that coffee affects everyone slightly differently and some may experience the negative effects more than others. Nevertheless, employees who have at least one coffee break a day report high levels of physical and mental wellbeing.
Overall, there is a high consensus on the benefits of coffee. Although it is not a replacement for sleep, when drank in moderation it presents many health benefits. It has become an important part of workplace culture, creating social opportunities, contributing to productivity and overall wellbeing.
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