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Vincent Iannelli, M.D.

Do movies increase teen drinking?

By February 22, 2012

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As we read about the teen who died after drinking Four Loko yesterday, I'm sure most parents are looking for ways to discourage their kids from drinking alcohol. That is especially important when you understand that the rates of underage drinking are so high, with 42% of high school students saying they have drank alcohol and 24% saying they are binge drinkers.

A new study that has been published in BMJ Open, "Comparing media and family predictors of alcohol use: a cohort study of US adolescents," suggests that "limiting media and marketing exposure could help prevent both onset and progression" of teen alcohol use.

Specifically, they found that drinking alcohol was associated with:

  • having friends who drank
  • watching movies that featured alcohol use, most of which were rated R or PG-13
  • having parents who drink alcohol
  • having alcohol available at home
  • owning alcohol-branded merchandise, such as t-shirt or hat with the name of a beer
  • older age
  • rebelliousness

Progression to binge drinking was most associated with peer drinking, movie alcohol exposure, alcohol-branded merchandise, age, and rebelliousness.

The authors suggest that parents should try to limit their child's exposure to movies that feature alcohol use and alcohol marketing exposures and "should not allow alcohol-branded merchandise in their homes," in addition to "keeping home alcohol in a secure location or by not drinking frequently themselves."

Since having friends who drink has such a big effect on teens who start drinking and who progress to binge drinking, parents would also be wise to monitor who their kids are handing out with and what they are doing.

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