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Alcohol Ads on Television are Associated With Underage Drinking and Related Problems

1/28/2013 For Release:  January 28, 2013

Seventh graders who are exposed to alcohol ads on TV, and who say they like the ads, may experience more severe problems related to drinking alcohol later in their adolescence, according to a study in the February 2013 issue of Pediatrics, “Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems” (published online Jan. 28). The researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 seventh graders, then followed up with the same students in eighth, ninth and 10th grades (though the size of the group participating decreased each year). The participants were assessed for the following: exposure to certain television programs during which alcohol ads appeared; recognition and recall of the ads and products; how much they liked the alcohol ads shown on TV; frequency and amount of their own alcohol use; and problems associated with alcohol use, such as trouble with homework or getting into fights. The researchers also assessed the students for other factors that may influence teens’ use of alcohol, such as parents’ education, whether or not they play sports, and knowing peers or adults who drink. Exposure to advertising was found to have a significant correlation with alcohol use, particularly among girls. Liking the ads was connected with alcohol-related problems, particularly in boys. For both boys and girls, the more they were exposed to the ads and liked them, the more their alcohol use grew from seventh to 10th grade. On the basis of these findings and a growing number of findings in the literature, the authors conclude that exposure to alcohol ads on TV may influence alcohol use and alcohol-related problems among adolescents. They recommend media education and limiting exposure of youth to alcohol ads as part of prevention strategies.

Editor’s Note: A related study, “Physician Advice to Adolescents About Drinking and Other Health Behaviors,” will be published in Pediatrics online Jan. 28.

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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)