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The Impact of Alcohol in the Movies

Does seeing alcohol consumption in the movies trigger adolescents to try alcohol or consume more than they would normally otherwise? A recent report published in the journal Pediatrics believes so. It states that 15-year-olds who watched a higher amount of alcohol consumption in films are influenced by what they see. The report was based off of data comprised from a longitudinal study in the United Kingdom that surveyed 5,163 15-year-old adolescents on a variety of topics related to drinking and movies. Those surveyed were asked about their drinking habits and whether or not they had seen a variety of popular films such as Aviator and Bridget Jones’ Diary. The participant’s answers were then analyzed and it was discovered that those who were exposed to the most alcohol consumption in films were 20% more likely to have tried alcohol, 70% more likely to binge drink, and more than twice as likely to consume more than one drink a week as well as suffer from alcohol-related problems.

Why Is This Relevant?

The results depicted in the study are especially prevalent when the high level of alcohol portrayal in movies is taken into account. While instances of smoking and the use of tobacco products plunged by over 85% and 42% for both adult and youth-rated films respectively for 1,400 box-office hits released between 1996 and 2004, instances of binge and underage drinking climbed sharply during the same time-span. For instance, brand placement for youth rated films increased from 80 to 145 alcohol placements annually between 1996 and 2009.

The Damaging Impact

While we try to spread the message that binge and underage drinking is dangerous and harmful, the prevalent portrayal of drinking in the movies as something fun and harmless threatens to contradict that message. As the study’s lead author Andrea Waylen, a lecturer in social sciences at the University of Bristol explains, “Alcohol is a drug and it has potential adverse effects, not only for individuals but also for family and friends. It’s not very often that we see the adverse effects of alcohol portrayed-like vomiting, rotten hangovers. In my view, we don’t really get an accurate representation of what alcohol is like.” The way alcohol is portrayed in cinema can have a profound effect on adolescents. According to experts, past studies have also shown that:

  • Images and scenarios depicted in movies are among the strongest influence on young children.
  • Children who watched movies in which alcohol consumption was depicted were more likely to try alcohol than having parents who drank at home.
  • The number of adolescents that drank increased from 11% to 25% when exposed to alcohol consumption in movies.
  • The increase in teens exposed to films showing alcohol who binge drink spiked from 4% to 13%.

Approximately 48 million people between the ages of 12 and 24 go to the movies every year and can be influenced by what they see on the big screen. Binge and underage drinking are escalating problems throughout the country. While they may be depicted as fun, glamorous, and without consequences in the movies, they can cause numerous serious physical and mental problems for those partaking. If you or someone you love is abusing alcohol, take a stand today. With proper treatment and support, recovery is possible. By Jenna Mitchell

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