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Study Finds Alcohol Ads Linked to Binge Drinking in African-American Women in New York City

Alcohol advertising in neighborhoods in New York City composed of mostly African-American residents may be aggravating problem drinking practices in the community. This is according to the findings of a new research that was conducted at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

Previous studies have already proven that alcohol ads are more predominant in African-American neighborhoods. However, this is the first study looking into the actual impact of these materials on the alcohol consumption of the residents. The said study is published by the American Journal of Public Health and is available online.

The research was composed of 139 African-American female residents of Central Harlem. The subjects were between the ages 21-49 and reportedly consumed at least one alcoholic drink every month for the past six months. But they weren’t formally diagnosed with alcohol or another form of substance abuse.

31% of the population sample are reportedly problem drinkers – that is, they endorsed such behaviors as the need to have a drink in the morning or feeling guilty about their alcohol consumption.

The researchers analyzed the link between the alcohol ads that were located along the neighborhood blocks and problem drinking behavior in the women. They found that “both exposure to alcohol advertising and a family history of alcoholism were related to being a problem drinker.” However, after the researchers controlled the variable of family history, they still found that problem drinking in this group is still influenced by the ads.

The adverts were not necessarily aimed at women but they clearly targeted the African-Americans in general, the researchers observed.

“We found that, on average, exposure to each alcohol ad in a woman’s residential block was associated with a 13% increase in the odds of being a problem drinker,” says Naa Oyo Kwate, PhD, principal author of the research and assistant professor of Sociomedical Sciences at the Mailman School. “This finding is significant for public health because residents in the study area were highly exposed to alcohol advertisements, and the associations between exposure and outcome persisted after we controlled for other potential causes of problem drinking.”

The study did not include assessments of how the participants perceived the ads so the mechanisms for influencing problem drinking behavior are still unestablished. The researchers, however, are inclined to believe that the ads may increase the vulnerability of highly-susceptible individuals for problem drinking.

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