Binge Drinking in Kids Linked to Onscreen Boozing

Alcohol use in films may encourage kids to binge drink

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Teens who binge drink can put themselves at risk of serious problems, including a greater chance of developing alcohol addiction later in life. Now, a new study says that part of the problem may be attributed to the movies that kids watch.

Researchers from institutions in Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland studied 16,551 students between the ages of 10 and 19 and found that kids who watched the most instances of drinking in films were more likely to have engaged in at least one episode of binge drinking, which is consuming more than five drinks on a single occasion. 

"Alcohol use in movies affects your teen’s drinking habits."

In the study, Dr. Reiner Hanewinkel of the Institute of Therapy and Health Research in Germany and colleagues had students from 114 different public schools answer questionnaires about their drinking habits. The students were then given a list of 50 popular movies, and each student reported how often he or she had seen them. Researchers from the six European research centers reviewed each movie and counted the number of times alcohol was used onscreen in the movies. (They defined “alcohol use” as being any time a major or minor character handled or used alcohol or when drinking was shown in the background.)

The research team used this tally of alcohol use in films to calculate the number of times a student viewed alcohol use.

The average age of the students was about 13.5 years old, and 51 percent were male.

During their assessment, the researchers adjusted results to account for age, sex, family affluence, school performance, television viewing time, “sensation seeking” and rebellious behavior, and the drinking habits of a student’s peers, parents and siblings.

They report that the more a student watched instances of drinking onscreen, the more likely he or she was to binge drink. This link was demonstrated in all countries except for Iceland.

They found that 27 percent of the students consumed more than five drinks on at least one occasion, though this varied depending on the student’s nationality. Only 6 percent of Icelandic students participated in binge drinking (considered insignificant), compared to 38 percent of Dutch students.

The authors believe that binge drinking at a young age is a habit that can extend to adulthood and possibly leading to alcohol problems. They note that heavy alcohol use in kids has also been linked to an increased risk for suicide, neurocognitive impairment and impaired brain development. Preventing underage drinking is an important public health goal, the researchers say.

This study was published in the March issue of the journal Pediatrics and funded by the European Commission, the Ministry of Health of the Federal Republic of Germany, the National Institutes of Health and other organizations.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 6, 2012
Last Updated:
March 14, 2012