Study: Drinking in Movies Causes Teens to Drink More.
Side A: What teenagers see in media affects their behavior.
Side B: Teenagers model their behavior after the people around them, not images on a screen.
An article in the journal Pediatrics has tipped the scales towards Side A. The article describes a study of teens made by a group of physicians and other researchers in Europe and the USA. They looked at teens’ drinking behavior, and how watching alcohol use in movies affects them.
The data suggests that teenagers are indeed influenced by drinking that they see in movies.
The Study Method
Students in six European countries were polled on drinking habits. Researchers estimated how much drinking was shown in the top 250 grossing films in each country, to estimate how much drinking the teens had been exposed to. They then compared the teens’ exposure to their drinking habits.
The study found that more exposure to drinking in movies results in more drinking. In the words of the study,
Seeing alcohol depictions in movies is an independent predictor of drinking initiation, particularly for more risky patterns of drinking.
In other words, teens are more likely to binge drink if they have been exposed to lots of alcohol use in films.
Parents might find this especially worrying since alcohol producers are doing their best to push their wares via product placements in movies. A 2013 study in JAMA Pedriatics found that alcohol brands were turning up with increasing frequency in movies rated for teens as young as 13.
Where does this leave us? It seems impossible to ban alcohol use from movies, since films are attempting to depict real life. Yet it’s also true that the alcohol industry is targeting younger and younger drinkers with sweet, flavored “starter” drinks.
Not long ago, another study called for a movie rating system that accounted for drinking – presumably a film with a certain amount of alcohol use would earn an “R” rating.
Whether or not a rating system is the answer, it’s time for alcohol marketers to admit that they’re targeting teens, and to stop it. Teen alcohol abuse is too serious a problem for the market to solve on its own.