Boob-tube booze scenes encourage binge drinking in viewers

March 4th, 2009 - 1:12 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Mar 4 (ANI): Watching alcohol being drunk on TV can drive people to immediately reach for the bottle themselves, says a new study.

The research, which has been published online in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism, found that people who watched films and commercials in which alcohol drinking featured prominently immediately reached for a bottle of beer or wine and drank an average of 1.5 bottles more than people who watched films and commercials in which alcohol played a less prominent role.

To reach the conclusion, scientists in The Netherlands and Canada conducted a randomised, controlled trial in which they allocated 80 male university students, aged 18-29, to one of four groups; 20 watched a film in which characters drank alcohol 18 times and alcoholic drinks were portrayed an additional 23 times, and a commercial break that included ads for alcohol; 20 watched the film and a neutral commercial break with no alcohol ads; 20 watched a film in which alcohol appeared far less prominently (characters consumed it three times and alcoholic drinks were shown 15 times) and a commercial break including ads for alcohol; and 20 watched the second film and a neutral commercial break with no alcohol ads.

The participants watched the films and commercials in a comfortable “home cinema” set in the laboratory, in friendship pairs, and with access to a fridge containing both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. The researchers aimed to replicate the conditions under which people watch TV at home with friends.

Over the period of one hour, those who were exposed to alcohol in both the film and commercial drank an average of nearly three 200 ml bottles of alcohol, while those who watched the neutral ads and the “non-alcoholic” film drank an average of 1.5 bottles of alcohol. The most alcohol anyone drank was four bottles, and the least amount drunk was none.

Rutger Engels, professor in developmental psychopathology at the Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University Nijmegen (The Netherlands), said: “This is the first experimental study to show a direct effect of exposure to alcohol portrayals on TV on viewers” immediate drinking behaviour.

“The results were straightforward and substantial: those who watched both the alcoholic film and commercials drank, on average, 1.5 bottles more than those who watched the non-alcoholic film and commercials.

“Our study clearly shows that alcohol portrayals in films and advertisements not only affects people’’s attitudes and norms on drinking in society, but it might work as a cue that affects craving and subsequent drinking in people who are drinkers. (ANI)

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