According to findings from a study recently published online in Alcohol & Alcoholism, television shows and commercials that portray the use of alcohol result in an immediate increase in alcohol consumption among youths. The study found that on average participants consumed 1.5 more drinks over the course of an hour when the television shows they watched portrayed alcohol use. This study is the first to reveal a casual link between immediate alcohol consumption and television shows and commercials that portray use. Previously, scientific thought generally portrayed the influence from television and commercials that show individuals using alcohol as being long-term and gradual. Researchers commenting on the findings said, “…direct influence from television may illustrate the persuasive power of exposure to alcohol images, and, moreover, direct consumption resulting from effects of alcohol exposure on television may be harmful in itself, when it leads to higher drinking levels.” The following is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study’s findings more:
Among the 80 men ages 18 to 29 recruited at the Dutch university, weekly consumption averaged 21.05 drinks, with more than a third of participants reporting heavy drinking once or twice a week.
For the experiment, they watched a movie in pairs with a friend at a student lounge in the lab. The room was set up like a home cinema, with a comfortable couch, big screen TV, free nuts or chips, and a refrigerator stocked with beer, wine, and soda.
The students were randomly shown either American Pie 2, in which characters drank 18 times and alcohol was portrayed an additional 23 times, or 40 Days and 40 Nights, in which alcohol was less prominent, with on-screen appearances 15 times and consumption three times.
During the movie, which was interspersed with commercials randomized to include alcohol or not, participants drank the most when they saw an alcohol-heavy movie with some alcohol-related commercials. They drank the least when the movie and commercials had little alcohol content (average 2.98 versus 1.69 drinks).