Alcohol in movies influences young teens’ drinking habits

After adjusting for factors likely to influence the results, teens who watched the most movies featuring alcohol were twice as likely to start drinking as those who watched the least. And they were 63% more likely to progress to binge drinking.

Alcohol in movies accounted for 28% of the proportion of teens who started drinking between surveys and for 20% of those who moved on to binge drinking.

The association was seen not only with movie characters who drink, but also with alcohol product placement, suggested the authors.

  According to information issued from the U. S. government publication entitled Prevention Alert, teen alcohol abuse showed many negative side effects. “Subtle alcohol-induced adolescent learning impairments could affect academic and occupational achievement.  In one study ... ... short-term memory skills were evaluated in alcohol-dependent and nondependent adolescents ages 15 and 16.  The alcohol-dependent youth had greater difficulty remembering words and simple geometric designs after a 10-minute interval.  In this and similar studies memory problems were most common among adolescents in treatment who had experienced alcohol withdrawal symptoms.  The emergence of withdrawal symptoms generally indicates an established pattern of heavy drinking.  Their appearance at a young age underscores the need for early intervention to prevent and treat underage drinking. Early alcohol use may have long lasting consequences.  People who begin drinking before age 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence at some time in their lives compared with those who have their first drink at age 20 or older.  It is not clear whether starting to drink at an early age actually causes alcoholism.  Environmental factors may also be involved, especially in alcoholic families, where children may start drinking earlier because of easier access to alcohol in the home, family acceptance of drinking and lack of parental monitoring.

  Aside from the fact that underage drinking is illegal, it poses a high risk to both the individual and society.  We will discuss some of the consequences of teen alcohol abuse.
Drinking and Driving
  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 to 20.  The rate of fatal crashes among alcohol-involved drivers between 16 and 20 years old is more than twice the rate for alcohol-involved drivers 21 and older.
  Alcohol use interacts with conditions such as depression and stress to contribute to suicide, the third leading cause of death among people between the ages of 14 and 25.  In one study, 37 percent of eighth grade females who drank heavily reported attempting suicide, compared with 11 percent who did not drink.
Sexual Assault
Sexual assault, including rape, occurs most commonly among women in late adolescence and early adulthood, usually within the context of a date.  In one survey, approximately 10 percent of female high school students reported having been raped.  Research suggests that alcohol use by the offender, the victim or both, increase the likelihood of sexual assault by a male acquaintance.
High-Risk Sex
  Research has associated adolescent alcohol use with high-risk sex, for instance, multiple partners or unprotected sex.  The consequences of high-risk sex also are common in this age group, particularly unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS.  According to a recent study, the link between high-risk sex and drinking is affected by the quantity of alcohol consumed.  The probability of sexual intercourse is increased by drinking amounts of alcohol sufficient to impair judgment, but decreased by drinking heavier amounts that result in feelings of nausea, passing out, or mental confusion.    Binge Drinking.  Though most college drinkers would deny it, young people do die solely from drinking.  In 1995, 318 people ages 15 to 24 died from alcohol poisoning alone, man of them after a night binge at college.
At the University of Virginia, a tradition that has seniors drinking a fifth of hard liquor at the final game of the football season (so-called ‘Fourth-year Fifth’) has killed 18 students since 1990.

“Product placement in movies is forbidden for cigarettes in the USA, but is legal and commonplace for the alcohol industry, with half of Hollywood films containing at least one alcohol brand appearance, regardless of film rating,” they write.

They point out that the depiction of smoking in movies has fallen since it became a public health issue and the subject of industry monitoring, and suggest that alcohol in movies “may deserve similar emphasis.”

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