Researchers find Hollywood a MAJOR Cause of Teen Drinking

A significant new study led by  Dartmouth Medical School professor James Sargent discovered a significant relationship between movie moving and teen alcohol abuse.

Parents might hope that movies like 'The Hangover' (2009) would serve as a warnings against binge drinking. They don't.

Published in BMJ Open, the prestigious open research journal of the British Medical Association, the two-year cohort study surveyed 6522 US adolescents, aged 10–14 over a two-year period. As one would expect, hanging out with friends who drink was the leading risk for alcohol use.

Surprisingly, exposure to movies glorifying high school drinking was the 3rd highest predictor of teen alcohol consumption and presented the fourth highest predictor of binge drinking.

It is a critical study for the filmmaking community, educators, youth ministers, and parents to consider.

As study chief James Sargent declared: “Like influenza, images in Hollywood movies begin in one region of the world then spread globally, where they may affect drinking behaviours among adolescents everywhere they are distributed.”

We’ve included links to the original BMJ Open journal article, as well as interpretive articles by MedScape Today and the New York Daily News.



Hollywood one of main causes of teen drinking, claims new study

New York Daily News: Health

High movie alcohol exposure ranked third biggest risk for onset of drinking, according to research

Hollywood is a major cause of underage drinking, according to a new study.

Underage drinkers are more than likely imitating their Hollywood idols rather than their parents, according to a new study.

Major exposure to scenes of alcohol consumption in movies is a bigger risk for teen drinking than having parents who drink, or if booze is easily available at home, claims the report, published this week in online journal BMJ Open

Unprecedented in its scope, the probe entailed a confidential telephone survey of more than 6,500 randomly-selected Americans aged 10 to 14 years, who were then interviewed three more times over the next two years.

The youngsters were surveyed on what big movies they had seen, whether they drank alcohol or owned merchandise with a liquor brand on it, and were also asked questions about their personality, school and home life.

The 50-movie list used in the interview was drawn randomly from 500 current or recent box-office hits plus another 32 films that had grossed at least 15 million dollars when the first survey was carried out.

The researchers then measured the amount of exposure to alcohol in movies, determined by a character’s actual or implied consumption of a drink or purchase of it.

The youngsters, they found, had typically notched up a total of four and half hours of such exposure. Many had seen a total of more than eight hours.

During the two-year course of the study, the tally of respondents who said they had started to drink alcohol rose from 11 percent to 25 percent. The proportion who began binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks in a row, tripled from four percent to 13 percent.

Out of 20 risk factors for these two activities, the biggest by far was high use of alcohol among the youngster’s peers.

But high movie alcohol exposure ranked the third biggest risk for the onset of drinking, and fourth in terms of progression to binge drinking.

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Movies Exert Powerful Influence on Teen Drinking Habits

by Deborah Brauser in MedScape Today

Alcohol use or alcohol brands are depicted in 80% to 95% of movies, and drinking is mostly portrayed positively.

February 24, 2012 — Media and marketing featuring alcohol use and branding may influence the drinking habits of young teenagers, new research suggests.

In a cohort study of more than 6500 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14 years, those who reported high movie alcohol exposure (MAE) were more than twice as likely to start drinking and were significantly more likely to binge drink compared with the young teens who had low MAE.

Alcohol-branded merchandise and being around peers who drink heavily were additional factors associated with both alcohol onset and bingeing.

“Alcohol use or brands are depicted in 80% to 95% of movies, and drinking is mostly portrayed positively,” writes Mike Stoolmiller, PhD, from the College of Education at the University of Oregon in Eugene, and colleagues.

After controlling for multiple covariates in the study, “MAE accounted for 28% of the alcohol onset and 20% of the binge drinking transitions observed in this cohort, making it a risk factor with important public health implications and arguing for policy approaches to prevention of MAE,” they add.

“Moreover, wearing alcohol-branded merchandise in public engages the adolescent in the actual marketing campaign, as the adolescent is seen by others as an endorsement.”

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Original Study

Comparing media and family predictors of alcohol use: a cohort study of US adolescents

In BMJ Open: An open access, online-only general medical journal dedicated to publishing research from all disciplines and therapeutic areas (British Medical Association)

Correspondence to Dr James D Sargent; (Published 20 February 2012)


Objective To compare media/marketing exposures and family factors in predicting adolescent alcohol use.

Design Cohort study.

Setting Confidential telephone survey of adolescents in their homes.

Participants Representative sample of 6522 US adolescents, aged 10–14 years at baseline and surveyed four times over 2 years.

Primary outcome measure Time to alcohol onset and progression to binge drinking were assessed with two survival models. Predictors were movie alcohol exposure (MAE), ownership of alcohol-branded merchandise and characteristics of the family (parental alcohol use, home availability of alcohol and parenting). Covariates included sociodemographics, peer drinking and personality factors.

Results Over the study period, the prevalence of adolescent ever use and binge drinking increased from 11% to 25% and from 4% to 13%, respectively…

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One Reply to “Researchers find Hollywood a MAJOR Cause of Teen Drinking”

  1. Golly,
    This is one study where my Christian fundamentalist background would have classified this subject as a no brainer.
    While I have moved on from fundamentalism, that does not mean that the scripture is now at the disposal of whatever interpretation an academic study will support.
    1 Cor. 15:33 states to “not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
    At what point do we really need studies to prove what the scripture already didacticly states?
    What if the study concluded the opposite of what 1 Cor. 15:33 stated?
    Which would bear more weight, the academic study or the scripture?
    Nevertheless, while I am always pleased when a reputable study buttresses biblical integrity, what happens when the study becomes the litmus test as to the weight we give to the scripture? Maybe I can chuck my bible and just go with the academic studies.
    Seriously, lets do studies on things that the Bible is gray or unclear about. That is what I need answers for.

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