February 20, 2012

Movies & Marketing Lead Teens to Drinking

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD By:

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Adolescent alcohol consumption influenced heavily by the media

(dailyRx News) Those who don’t believe their child is influenced by what they’re seeing on the Internet and television may want to rethink their stance. 

New research funded by the National Institute of Health suggests that marketing and movies influence adolescents to start drinking and thereafter consume in excess.

According to study authors, “Peer drinking, movie alcohol exposure, alcohol-branded merchandise, age and rebelliousness were associated with both alcohol onset and progression to binge drinking.”

"Set parental controls to limit media exposure for maturing adolescents."

The study was just published online today through BMJ Open under lead author Mike Stoolmiller, Ph.D., a research associate at the Oregon Social Learning Center.

Dr. Stoolmiller and his colleagues discovered that tweens and early teens are twice as likely to drink alcohol if they’ve watched a lot of films where it’s featured. This is as opposed to adolescents who have more PG exposure settings.

The investigators embarked upon a cohort study monitoring 6,522 U.S. kids ages 10-14, over a period of two years. Participants in the study partook in a telephone survey designed to understand the child's media exposure and alcohol consumption.  

The survey asked questions about parent alcohol use, availability of alcohol, television viewing habits, alcohol receptiveness, as well as school performance, and each subject was surveyed five times throughout the research.

Over the course of the study, doctors found there was a significant overall increase in drinking reports by teens, expounded in cases where kids had strong affection for media and movies.  

“After control for multiple [potentially influential variables], movie alcohol exposure accounted for 28% of the alcohol onset and 20% of the binge drinking transitions,” the study finds. Family factors, such as parents drinking or keeping alcohol in the cupboard, also predicted alcohol onset though they did not appear to influence binges.

Dr. Stoolmiller’s team writes, “The results suggest that family focused interventions would have a larger impact on alcohol onset while limiting media and marketing exposure could help prevent both onset and progression.”  

dailyRx contributing expert Nicole Meise, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist in a private practice in Beverly Hills, not far from our nation's historical center of influential movie studios.  Dr. Meise reminds readers, "Media may play a role, but certainly isn’t the only thing to be blamed.

"This study seems to indicate that although alcohol consumption in films and product placement could impact teen drinking habits - social norms, access to alcohol, a predisposition to sensation seeking, and parenting are also important factors to consider." 

Dr. Meise further reaches out to teen motivators to consider changing their habits, reminding, "The risk isn’t just the alcohol consumption but the behaviors that often accompany drinking: drunk driving, unsafe sex, binge drinking, alcohol abuse or dependence."  

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Reviewed by: 
Joseph V. Madia, MD
Review Date: 
February 20, 2012

Last Updated:
February 20, 2012