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March 5th, 2012
08:56 AM ET

Movies may increase binge drinking in teens

Whether or not teenagers overindulge may be influenced, in part, by what they see in the movies.

Researchers in Europe have found that the more scenes of alcohol use teens watched on the big screen, the greater their risk of binge drinking. This was the case despite cultural differences between countries in how alcohol is regulated and/or consumed.

Scientists surveyed 16,500 students ages 10 to 19 from Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland.

The students were asked how often they drank five alcoholic beverages during one sitting, and about the types of movies they watched. Participants were given a list of 50 movies to choose from, which included many top box-office hits from the U.S. The number of drinking scenes was tallied for each movie.

Overall, 27% of the European adolescents surveyed had engaged in binge drinking, which is a little higher than what we see among young people in the United States.

The findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

"We did not expect this clear finding, but it shows how influential media are in a young person's life," says Reiner Hanewinkel, Ph.D, from the Institute for Therapy and Health Research in Kiel, Germany. "Hollywood blockbusters are distributed worldwide, and they have an impact not only on U.S. teens but also abroad."

There are many other well-known risk factors that can affect a teen's decision to drink, so Hanewinkel and his fellow researchers took those into consideration. They looked at a teen's levels of rebelliousness or sensation-seeking, peer drinking levels, family drinking patterns, affluence and gender.

Even with all these variables accounted for, the researchers still found that the amount of alcohol consumed in movies influenced teens to consume larger amounts of alcohol.

Researchers in America have also found a link between drinking in movies and adolescent alcohol consumption habits.

"In both settings [in Europe and the U.S.], youths with high exposure [to drinking in movies] are about twice as likely to try drinking and, among the experimental drinkers, twice as likely to binge drink, regardless of the marked across-country differences in how alcohol is regulated and consumed," says James Sargent, Professor of Pediatrics at Dartmouth Medical School and co-author of a study on alcohol use in American youth.

Sargent is concerned about the lack of attention this health issue gets in the United States because "teens in the U.S. start to drink at age 10 to 11 and some progress very quickly to binge drinking."

The American Academy of Pediatrics has been monitoring this issue for several years.

"What the media research is now telling us - and virtually all of this has been in the last five years or so - is that exposure to scenes of drinking on the big screen is one of the big factors in whether your teen will start drinking," explains Dr. Victor Strasburger, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and the lead author of the AAP policy statement on substance abuse and media.

But experts say, even though the European study shows a strong association between what is seen on the movie screen and binge drinking, it cannot show cause and effect.

It may be that binge drinking teens seek out movies that have alcohol scenes, or it could be that seeing scenes of alcohol use in movies makes them more likely to binge drink. More research is needed to confirm these findings.

In the meantime, Strasburger advises parents, “Watch TV with your teens, go to the movies with them and discuss what you're seeing. What you say matters more than what one TV show or one movie says."


soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Coriolana

    Oh let us bow to the white coat gods and their decrees!

    March 5, 2012 at 10:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ernie

      I'm sick of anti-intellectual sentiments. If you don't like science then continue to read your bible and keep your mouth shut. Also quit taking anti-biotics or other medications and seeking treatment from trained healthcare professionals and attend faith healing sessions.

      March 5, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I couldn't agree with you more. Alcohol is bad for you, but here's a plethora of opoids and anti-depressants... These self-medicating scientists can go away anytime...

      March 5, 2012 at 23:03 | Report abuse |
    • gratular

      I'll stick with science and scientists, who use reason and logic to study and come to a conclusion.. Unlike religion and armchair philosophers who have no actual evidence for their way of thinking on the subject...

      March 7, 2012 at 15:41 | Report abuse |
  2. reallywow

    glad money was spent on such a useless study... movies/tv are the cause of everything. let's take them away!

    March 5, 2012 at 11:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. dom625

    It's about time alcohol begins garnering the same demonization as tobacco. Smoking was shunned from movies long ago; alcohol, however, was perfectly acceptable. Ditto for commercials and advertisements. Alcohol is far more dangerous for teens than tobacco could ever be.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ally

      I agree that TV commercials from cigarette companies have been shunned. But I haven't seen a drop in smoking in movies at all. Recent example: Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

      March 5, 2012 at 12:51 | Report abuse |
    • dom625

      I may be remembering incorrectly, but aren't there guidelines stating that smoking in a movie automatically garners that movie an R rating?

      March 5, 2012 at 12:59 | Report abuse |
    • bobby

      Big Alcohol must big lobbist in Congress.. This is shameful that Alcohol is promoted by the media College sports sponsored by beer companies.. Alcohol is a big problem on college campus.. But money speaks louder than safety.

      March 5, 2012 at 18:41 | Report abuse |
    • JOHN BERRY THE THIRD

      People need to identify all of the bad products in general, drugs, alcohol, fatty foods, anything that will cause you to decrease in health. It's not really the company's fault for making the U.S. obese with high blood pressure, but more of the people themselves. People don't want to change their lifestyle though, eating Mcdonalds and wathcing tv all day doing nothing, and expect weight loss to come to them on a silver platter. People are lazy these days and only hope for a diet pill that'll magically poof their fat and lack of health away, rather than actually working out and eating healthier. Of course changning a diet plan takes much effort and work to fully go through with such a diet. Not everyone is willing to take on the challenge, and would rather just have tasty but unhealthy foods that will end up killing themselves. On the other hand of my argument, I think that the producers of such unhealth products need to find a way to make healthier foods and products, even if it will cost them more, becausei n the end everyone will be healthier and you may have a production raise from all of the healthy people wanting to be healthy by eating their products. SO, we need products that will make the consumers happy and healthy, not dagerous products that'll affect them negatively. This means no more fast food ads, tobacco ads, alcohol ads, etc. But, nobody wants to lose money by stopping their ads, because people will lose jobs, money, and bosses of companies aren't willing to lose that much money, so we will all be screwed just eating unhealthy foods unless we decide to not eat such crap nor do drugs/alcohol and live healthy lives. In conclusion, nobody has to eat or consume anything bad, it's the choice they make and anyone can turn around and become healthy.

      March 6, 2012 at 22:37 | Report abuse |
  4. Johnny

    Or it could be the quality of the movies that drive them to drink. Some of the schlock I see trailers for makes me want to grab the nearest bottle of vodka.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SilentBoy741

      I know I can't watch most of what's being churned out by Hollywood without being at least slightly hammered.

      March 6, 2012 at 02:31 | Report abuse |
  5. Johnny

    @dom625: People still smoke in movies. In "Midnight in Paris" many of the characters smoked. And you also still occasionally see it on TV, like in the SyFy channel remake of "Battlestar Galactica".

    March 5, 2012 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Steve Folden

    I beleive teens that drink would seek out movies with drinking in them.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • tuma

      I agree. Is the study designed to say causation? It does seem likely that those that intend to drink or that are drinkers would seek movies that depict that lifestyle they idolize

      March 6, 2012 at 23:49 | Report abuse |
    • GPC

      Steve,

      Advertising is a multibillion dollar industry because it works. If ads can influence people to buy products, it's very likely that things shown in movies can influence behavior.

      March 7, 2012 at 13:49 | Report abuse |
  7. Portland tony

    OMG, "Scientists and Clerics" have been blaming the media for everything that teens do since before Elvis's gyrations on TV. Experimentation is the beast. Not the visual arts. Peer admonition is the motivator. Lack of good parenting is the facilitator.

    March 5, 2012 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. OldAsDirt

    I bet studying groups of teens among other teens who are drinking encourages them to join the foolishness. While it's certainly a health issue, communal stupidity is common among adolescents. Drinking is just one more form of it. Hopefully those less weak-minded will get them home.

    March 5, 2012 at 13:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. doc

    Would have been a lot more interesting to ask them if they ever traveled to the US, or partook in binge drinking with Americans? You think...

    March 5, 2012 at 13:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. boozer

    well, we should ban booz in movies and tv shows without an R rating of course. Bad advertising as well.. espeicaly since that volentary ban of marketing hard liqure by the industry didnt last long....(no regulaiton though..that would be bad!)... Sure its not illeagal, and sure that wont do anything to change the fact that if they were damaged to begin with or they wouldnt feel compelled to binge drink to begin with, but hey! it'll take any responsibility away from the parents, becuase lord knows they are not responsible for the way thier boozehound / irresponsible / addict children are reered. Its TV. oh, maybe we should ban TV?,,,nah thast a bad idea, becuase then id need a babysitter.

    March 5, 2012 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Primal

    Total nonsense. Health dot com is the most bogus site on the internet when it comes to actual health.

    March 5, 2012 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. NateFromIndiana

    The biggest factor that influences teens is their peer group. The movies might not be directly responsible for any particular drink being poured, but they do contribute to the sociological dynamics of what happens when teens get together with their friends.

    March 5, 2012 at 13:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sixtus

    As an adult who willnigly made choices to go out and seek opportunities to carouse with my teenage cronies, i can attest that teens will drink because they want to have fun and get drunk, not because it is shown in movies or on TV. As teenagers they strive to bend the rules whenever possible because (a) it is a challenge, and (b) because it is fun to do so (unless you get caught). Although underage drinking is an issue anywhere you go where booze is available, it is not the end of the world. teaching your kids between having one or two/a few vs. going all out to get totally hammered is a good first step. i always remember a friend growing up when we were all that age, and his parents were somewhat lenient with him, just asking that they always know where he is and if he has a few beers it was ok, but just not to over do it. and in the end, this was always the friend who was responsible and tempered – i always felt that it was because "drinking" was not made taboo, and because of that, a lot of the challenge of "doing something wrong" was taken out of the equation and in turn he was the most responsible of all of us. but, there is little you can do to prevent a teen from drinking with friends if that is their mindset otehr than locking them in the house. I do feel that part of that age of wonder is learning from experience and with good parenting, teens can still come out ahead without being locked away until age 21.

    March 5, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. bobby

    Make cents $$$.. Guns, booze, ciggies are free advertising for these industries..

    March 5, 2012 at 17:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. cc

    I'd say this shows that teens who abuse alcohol are more likely to watch movies that involve drinking-not the reverse.

    March 5, 2012 at 18:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. dw

    Seriously, they wasted money on a study to figure this out?! And good luck going to the movies with your teenager, clearly you don't have any teenagers or you would know that they would never go to the movies with you. What if one of their friends saw you!? How embarrassing!!! This is a waste of money and time. Next thing you'll be telling me is watching VH1 with nearly naked women portrayed as sex objects gyrating to a pounding beat encourages teenagers to have sex. DUH! At least it's Europe, I would hate to think of my tax dollars being wasted on stuff like this. Oh wait never mind, tax dollars in the US get wasted on stuff that's even dumber...

    March 6, 2012 at 10:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Sue

    Wow! Let's show more scenes of studying and community service in movies!! Think that'll have an impact?

    March 6, 2012 at 10:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. FirstAve

    I think I'm gonna get bombed right now...on WI!!

    March 6, 2012 at 12:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mac

    First it was illegal drugs, and "Just Say No" during the Reagan years. Then, in the 1990s, it was cigarettes and "Big Tobacco". Now, with the help of neo-prohibitionists like MADD, and sanctimonious liberals, it's "Big Alcohol". I love how left-wing people want to simply legislate away all of our individual rights in the name of "the children", or allegedly for the public good, and by calling any industry "Big" you can demonize it and portray it as an Orwellian monster. Meanwhile, everyone is fat and hopelessly out of shape, and they're all addicted to prescription medications and their little hand-held mind control devices. Funny how I never hear left-wingers complain about "Big Wireless", or "Big Pharma", or even "Big Fatty Sugary Food". Leave us alone to have a few beers. We need it with the way the world is going. Now, go text someone, and watch the pretty lights flash on your latest must-have device while the dopamine starts flowing in your infantile brains.

    March 6, 2012 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Johnny

      Sanctimonious liberals against alcohol? It's been my experience that it's the conservative Baptists and Mormons who are against alcohol.

      March 6, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse |
    • What Now

      I really think you are confused. Liberals usually don't want to legislate your personal life. Liberals typically defend your right to chose your own lifestyle. Ultra right winged conservatives typically like to control your personal choices. Sorry, I agree with Johnny.

      March 6, 2012 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
  20. sam

    BAn all ALCOHOL ADVERTISING.....PERIOD...Get it off all BILLBOARDS,Movies,Magazines,TV,And take all booze out of anywhere CHILDREN ARE PRESENT..They dont need to ADVERTISE,Everyone knows what BEER and the rest of the poison is...They just dont know what it can do,And that it INJURES and KILLS others ALSO...Unlike any SMOKER

    March 6, 2012 at 14:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mac

      See my post above.This guy is only proving my point. You can justify totalitarianism and control of the individual any time you want by simply hysterically screaming your brains out about THE CHILDREN. See, now alcoholic beverages are "poison". I love it. Let's just ban everything. Let's change the name of this country to "The United Mommy States of America". Let's just keep banning. More laws, more laws. NOW! MORE LAWS! Ban everything NOW because I say so.

      This stuff is totally disturbing. Welcome to The Fourth Reich, folks. Now that The Soviet Union is gone, we have nothing to compare ourselves to, and we're going the same way they went.

      March 6, 2012 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
  21. sam

    BAN All ALCOHOL ADVERTISING....NOW

    March 6, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. cbolll

    Not only is pop culture influencing kids to drink it is also influencing them to have sex, do drugs, dis respect authority and so on. Im pretty sure teen pregnancy rate has went up in the past couple of years since mtv started there whole 16 and pregnant show, and kids eat this stuff up. Of course they idolize and want to imitate the behaviors and actions seen on the big screen. teen drug use is up ,teen pregnancy is up, and kids are really just becoming low on ambition now a days. People need to quit contributing to networks like MTV and VH1 and others that fill kids heads full of garbage. Kids lifes are ruled now a days by the people in the media and it is pathetic are these the kind of people you want your kids to look up to.

    March 6, 2012 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Matrix

      Nope. Studies show teen pregnancy rates have continued to decline.

      March 6, 2012 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
  23. What Now

    Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the trend? Bad or misbehavior from kids must be the cause of something other than the kid or the parents. It couldn't possibly be the fault of the kid or the parents. It must be ADHD, movies, TV shows, the teacher, he's just being a young child, that horrible college professor, the class must be too hard, the next door neighbor, it had to be that person he/she was hanging around with, the dog was asking for it, etc. The blame seems to end up everywhere but where it belongs.

    March 6, 2012 at 16:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GPC

      I used to babysit two boys many years ago. One thing I learned very quickly was not to let them watch TV. They liked action shows but the shows made them really hyper. These perfectly good kids would be out of control after watching Power Rangers. So, it is important for parents to control what their kids are exposed to. Parents need to be aware of negative effects and put some controls on what their kids watch and eat. Sugary and processed foods can also make kids hyper and cause ADHD. So, outside influences can actually have a huge impact on behavior. It's foolish to dismiss that.

      March 7, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  24. JOHN BERRY THE THIRD

    sorry for typos. I also think that production will decrease for a little if one company were to become healthy, becasue it takes time to change to healthier foods, but in the end the production will increse from healthier food production.

    March 6, 2012 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. gratular

    I still cant understand why Alcohol is legal... It kills more people each year than all illegal drugs combined...Yet a 21 year old with mental problems can buy it at his grocery store.. And drugs like Marijuana can get you a jail sentence.. The hypocrisy is unreal...

    March 7, 2012 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. jj

    Young people are freakin' idots.

    March 7, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. here we go again

    you do a study in another country where drink is not a big deal and then compare it to the US? Then you say the movies cause the issue? I think it is Culture and the way you are raised by your parents. Germany is known for drinking... to blame movies is retarded because about 75% of your values comes from your parents 15% from outside sources, and 10% other.

    March 7, 2012 at 23:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Somer Stonum

    The days of hopping into the car and driving to the video store to pick out a DVD to watch seem to be coming to a close for many people. Just as with many other aspects of life, watching movies has moved into the online world and lots of online movie watchers wouldn't have it any other way. There is certainly a sense of nostalgia in going the video store route for many people, but the reasons to watch movies online just seem to keep piling up..

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    April 15, 2013 at 22:10 | Report abuse | Reply

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