HealthDay News — Seeing actors drink alcohol in movies seems to increase the likelihood that teens will drink and have alcohol-related problems, a new study suggests.
The findings fit with a growing consensus of evidence that teens are more likely to engage in various risky behaviors that occur in the films and TV shows they watch, said study author Andrea Waylen, PhD, a senior lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol in England.
But, this study doesn’t prove that watching films with alcohol in them causes teens to drink, only that it’s a possible factor.
For the latest study, the researchers surveyed just over 5,000 English 15-year-olds to find out which of 50 movies they had seen. The 50 films had been randomly selected from popular, recent films, and the researchers had measured how many minutes in each film showed alcohol use.
The teens were categorized according to whether they had seen a small amount of alcohol use in movies (less than 28 minutes), a lot (at least 64 minutes) or somewhere in between. They also answered questions about whether they drank alcohol and how often.
Eighty-six percent of the teens said they had tried alcohol. Nearly half said they participated in binge drinking. And just over 40% said they’d had an alcohol-related problem, the researchers found.
Adjustments were made for other factors that might affect teen drinking, such as socioeconomic status, mental health conditions, parental drinking habits and family characteristics.
After considering those factors, the researchers found that teens exposed to the most drinking in movies were still 20% more likely to have tried alcohol than teens with the lowest exposure, they reported in the journal Pediatrics.
Those who watched the most alcohol use in films also were almost twice as likely to binge drink and more than twice as likely to drink weekly than those who had seen the least alcohol use. Teens who saw a lot of drinking in movies were also twice as likely to have alcohol-related problems.
Waylen A, et al. Alcohol Use in Films and Adolescent Alcohol Use. Pediatrics. 2015; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-2978.