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Alcohol in Movies Linked to Underage Drinking

Watching alcohol being consumed in movies massively increases kids' chances of taking up binge drinking, say researchers.

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John Belushi chugs Jack in Animal House.
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By Valerie Tejeda

02/21/12

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Watching alcohol consumption on the big screen has been linked to increased drinking in young teens. Over the course of two years, researchers surveyed 6,500 US children aged 10-14, checking in on each of them four times throughout the study. The youngsters were asked if they'd ever drunk alcohol behind their parents' backs—they were also asked to identify which of 50 randomly selected movies they had seen. The movies on the list were then analyzed for alcohol use among their main characters (defined as actual or implied purchase or consumption of booze). The researchers found that the group of kids with the most exposure to alcohol in movies were twice as likely to have already drunk it themselves, and 63% more likely to progress to binge drinking. Over the two years the proportion of the monitored teens who drank rose from 11-25%; binge drinking among the study group went up from 4-13%. The study also found that having parents who drink at home, and having alcohol available at home, are both associated with taking up drinking—but not with progression to binge drinking. Children owning alcohol-branded merchandise, on the other hand, is associated with both.

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