Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Health beliefs about bottled water: a qualitative study

Lorna A Ward1, Owen L Cain1, Ryan A Mullally1, Kathryn S Holliday1, Aaron GH Wernham1, Paul D Baillie1 and Sheila M Greenfield2*

Author Affiliations

1 Medical Student, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

2 Primary Care Clinical Sciences, University of Birmingham Medical School, Birmingham, B15 2TT, UK

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Public Health 2009, 9:196  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-196

Published: 19 June 2009



There has been a consistent rise in bottled water consumption over the last decade. Little is known about the health beliefs held by the general public about bottled water as this issue is not addressed by the existing quantitative literature. The purpose of this study was to improve understanding of the public's health beliefs concerning bottled mineral water, and the extent to which these beliefs and other views they hold, influence drinking habits.


A qualitative study using semi-structured interviews, with 23 users of the Munrow Sports Centre on the University of Birmingham campus.


Health beliefs about bottled water could be classified as general or specific beliefs. Most participants believed that bottled water conferred general health benefits but were unsure as to the nature of these. In terms of specific health beliefs, the idea that the minerals in bottled water conferred a health benefit was the most commonly cited. There were concerns over links between the plastic bottle itself and cancer. Participants believed that bottled water has a detrimental effect on the environment. Convenience, cost and taste were influential factors when making decisions as to whether to buy bottled water; health beliefs were unimportant motivating factors.


The majority of participants believed that bottled water has some health benefits. However, these beliefs played a minor role in determining bottled water consumption and are unlikely to be helpful in explaining recent trends in bottled water consumption if generalised to the UK population. The health beliefs elicited were supported by scientific evidence to varying extents. Most participants did not feel that bottled water conferred significant, if any, health benefits over tap water.