Alcohol-Related Media and Adolescent Alcohol Use

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Alcohol-Related Media and Adolescent Alcohol Use – The Study

Adolescents are more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol and generally consume it in a more risky fashion, compared to adults. Alcohol consumption during adolescence may cause permanent brain damage (at a time when the brain is still developing), injury or death (through automobile crashes and other accidents), suicide, depression, violence, date rape, spread of sexually transmitted diseases, and many other harms. Previous research shows that alcohol advertising is associated with more positive drinking expectancies. Because of ethical boundaries, it has been impossible to directly test whether alcohol advertising influences adolescent drinking behavior. However, there are indirect methods of analyzing the impact of alcohol advertising and adolescent drinking behavior and alcohol recovery. A team of researchers from The Netherlands and the United Kingdom reviewed 13 longitudinal studies to assess the impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use (Anderson et. al., 2009).

You might also be interested in: Preventing Addiction in Teens

The researchers used MEDLINE, Sociological Abstracts, PsycLIT, the Cochrane Library, Google scholar, and hand searchers of journals to find key publications from 1990 to 2008. The researchers selected longitudinal studies that assessed individual exposure to alcohol advertising plus drinking behavior at baseline as well as drinking behavior at a follow-up. All participants in the studies were 18 or younger, or below the legal drinking age in the country where the data was collected. The researchers reviewed 13 studies which included date from over 38,000 adolescents.

The studies reviewed by the authors measured exposure to alcohol advertising using a variety of methods, including ownership of branded merchandise, estimates of volume of media exposure, expenditure on advertisements, and recall and receptivity. Follow-up times ranged from 8 months to 96 months. Of the 13 studies, 12 found an impact of media exposure on subsequent alcohol use with a dose-response relationship. In other words, more media exposure to alcohol advertising was generally associated with higher levels of subsequent alcohol use among participants. (The thirteenth studied, which examined outdoor alcohol advertising near schools, did not report an impact on subsequent drinking behavior.)

The authors found that the longitudinal studies they reviewed consistently suggest that exposure to alcohol advertising is associated with an increased likelihood of adolescent alcohol use as well as increased alcohol use among those who were consuming alcohol at baseline. To summarize, the authors wrote, “Based on the strength of this association, the consistency of findings across numerous observational studies, temporality of exposure and drinking behaviors observed, dose-response relationships, as well as the theoretical plausibility regarding the impact of media exposure and commercial communications, we conclude that alcohol advertising and promotion increases the likelihood that adolescents will start to use alcohol, and to drink more if they are already using alcohol.” In other words, there is a direct link between alcohol-related media and adolescent alcohol use.

In a self-empowering approach, we help people to effectively respond to alcohol advertising and other stimuli that might normally lead people to drink or to drink more heavily. Coping with cravings brought on by these stimuli is a major focus in self-empowering alcohol treatment. Alcohol in the media and public arena is very common, so learning strategies to deal with a barrage of alcohol-related media is very important in one’s recovery.

See also: Preventing Addiction in Teens

Anderson P, De Bruijn A, Angus K, Gorden R, Hastings G. Impact of alcohol advertising and media exposure on adolescent alcohol use: a systematic review of longitudinal studies. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2009; 44(3): 229-243.