Exposure To Drinking In Films Could Increase Alcohol-Related Risks In Adolescents

By McCarton Ackerman 04/14/15

Over 70% of movies released in the U.K. in the last 20 years depicted alcohol abuse.

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A new study has found that the silver screen could be causing some very real-life impacts on teen drinking habits, with researchers concluding that adolescents are more likely to try booze the more they witness alcohol consumption in films.

The findings, published in the latest issue of the journal Pediatrics, came after analyzing data from over 5,000 adolescents with an approximate age of 15. All of the teenagers came from a "Children of the 90s" study out of Bristol in the U.K.

Lead researcher Dr. Andrea Waylen and her colleagues found that the adolescents who had the most exposure to alcohol in films were 1.2 times more likely to have tried drinking and 1.7 times more likely to binge drink than those who were least exposed. The high-exposed teens were also twice as likely to have issues with alcohol in adulthood than those less exposed, as well as 2.4 times more likely to drink weekly.

Approximately 72% of the most popular box office films in the U.K. between 1989 and 2008 showed alcohol use, but only 6% were classified as adult only. Waylen suggested that reviewing film-rating categories, as well as giving alcohol ratings for all films, could help reduce teen alcohol consumption.

A separate study published last February in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research also found that sleep issues among adolescents could lead to problems with alcohol later in life. Maria M. Wong, professor and director of experimental training in the department of psychology at Idaho State University, led a team which analyzed data from 6,504 adolescents—52% boys and 48% girls—that was collected in three waves, 1994-95, 1996, and 2001-02.

Wong concluded that those with sleep difficulties in the 1994-95 wave had much higher instances of "alcohol-related interpersonal problems, binge drinking...driving under the influence, getting into a sexual situation one later regretted due to drinking ... and drug-related problems at the second wave."

In normal adults, sleep issues increased the risk of alcohol use one year later and a drug problem 3.5 years later. Those with insomnia who were currently receiving treatment for alcohol use were also more likely to relapse.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.