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Alcohol in Movies May Influence Teens’ Drinking Habits, Study Suggests

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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.”

3 Responses to this article

  1. George in Westwood / March 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    Duh….. So what else is new? Actually I am glad to see that someone has made an attempt to document this. Almost every movie is full of scenes with people drinking. Professional sports runs on alcohol, with a Budweiser billboard easily visible in every ballpark and stadium in the country. Some years ago, the Boston Red Sox made a big announcement that they were taking down a Marlboro Man billboard sign so it would never be visible in a telecast from Fenway Park. They replaced it with a billboard for Miller High-Life! That space is now a Dunkin Donuts billboard.

  2. Ron / March 7, 2012 at 3:19 pm

    Hardly a surprising result, with movies like The Hangover, Forty-year Old Virgin, etc. But it seems likely that alcohol exposure, regardless of venue, is meant to influence people to drink. That’s one of the reasons alcohol ads are so prominently displayed at sporting events. Most recently, AB has begun sponsorship of cage wrestling and fishing shows. Rather than an excessive display of national sports support, common sense suggests they are doing so to influence the viewing audience to buy their products. Given alcohol sales, their strategy seems to be working.

  3. Cyndie Ford Purdy, LMHC / March 7, 2012 at 2:09 pm

    Alcohol in movies may influence teens drinking? Oh really? And how long did it take them to figure this out. I can’t wait for the study about how all the smoking in movies influences young folks to pick up the deadly habit.

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