According to a recent study, showing alcohol in movies and on TV ads can affect the amount of alcohol that a person takes in. This is the first time that a study proves the immediate effects of such portrayals on alcohol intake.
The findings of the said study were published this month in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. The research showed 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.”
The research was conducted by scientists from the Netherlands and Canada and consisted of a randomized and controlled trial among 80 male university students. The respondents, aged 18-29, were divided into four groups. One watched American Pie, a film where the characters drank 18 times and drinks were portrayed 23 times more as well as a commercial break that featured alcohol ads. Another group watched the same movie with a neutral commercial break (no alcohol ads). The third group watched a different film – 40 Days and 40 Nights – where alcohol wasn’t prominently shown along with a commercial break ridden with alcohol ads. Finally, the last group watched the same film with commercial ads that do not display alcohol.
The groups watched the films and commercials in a comfortable setting and within easy access to a fridge that contains both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. This is to replicate ordinary settings where in people watch TV at home in the company of friends.
During the trial, those who were exposed to alcohol in both film and commercials drank an average of three bottles (200ml each) of alcohol while the non-alcoholic media group drank 1.4 bottles on the average.
According to Rutger Engels of the Behavioral Science Institute at the Radboud University Nijmegen, the study is the first to show the direct effect of being exposed to alcohol through TV. “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. This might imply that, for example, while watching an ad for a particular brand of beer, you are not only more prone to buy that brand next time you are in the supermarket, but also that you might go immediately to the fridge to take a beer.”
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