The amount of drinking children and teens see in movies may influence their own drinking habits, suggests a new study conducted in six European nations.
Researchers gave surveys to more than 16,000 students, ages 10 to 19, in Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland. They were asked to check off which of 50 movies that were popular in their country they had seen. For each movie, the researchers counted how many times characters were shown drinking alcohol, according to Reuters. At least 86 percent of the movies had at least one drinking scene.
The researchers compared the students’ exposure to alcohol in the movies with how many of them reported ever engaging in binge drinking (having five or more drinks on a single occasion). Twenty-seven percent of the students reported binge drinking at least once, they reported in Pediatrics.
The study found an association between viewing on-screen drinking and students’ own drinking behavior. Between 10 to 20 percent of students who viewed the least on-screen drinking had binged themselves, compared with 40 percent who had seen the most on-screen drinking.
It is not known whether the students started binge drinking before or after they saw the movies, the researchers point out. They did take into account other factors, such as the students’ risk-taking behavior, their academic record, and how much their friends and family drank.
Study author Reiner Hanewinkel, PhD, told Reuters that teenagers “have seen at least thousands of impressions of smoking and drinking, so it shapes their attitude that these kinds of behavior are adult-like behavior. It makes the alcohol drinking look cool and sexy and so-on.”