Alcohol use in Bollywood movies impacting alcohol use among Indian adolescents

Alcohol use in Bollywood movies is directly influencing the drinking habits of India’s adolescents, according to a new study presented today at the World Congress of Cardiology in Dubai.

Overall 10 per cent of the students (aged between 12-16 years) surveyed in the study had already tried alcohol. But students that had been most exposed to alcohol use in Bollywood movies were found to be 2.78 times more likely to have tried alcohol as compared with those who were least exposed. Even when adjustments were made for demographic variables, social influences and characteristics of child and parenting, students were found to be 1.49 times more likely to have tried alcohol if they had been highly exposed to alcohol use in Bollywood films as compared to those who were least exposed.

“These results show that exposure to alcohol use depictions in Bollywood films is directly associated with alcohol use among young people in India,” said Dr. G.P. Nazar, Health Related Information Dissemination Against Youth (HIRDAY). “While alcohol advertising is banned in all Indian media and scenes that justify or glorify drinking are not allowed in Bollywood films, there is no dedicated health legislation that prohibits the depiction of alcohol in these films and there is a clear need for an immediate alcohol control policy”.

Study design
The study set out to determine two things – firstly if India’s adolescents were exposed to alcohol use in Bollywood films and secondly if this exposure was associated with their own alcohol use.

Fifty-nine popular Bollywood movies were coded to record the number of alcohol use occurrences and 3,956 adolescents were then asked if they had seen these movies. Students were grouped according to their exposure to alcohol use occurrences in these movies. They were then asked about their alcohol consumption status. Students in the fourth quartile – i.e. the quarter than had seen the greatest number of alcohol use occurrences in these movies – were found to be 2.78 times more likely to have tried alcohol compared with those students in the first quartile of exposure.

Alcohol and cardiovascular disease
Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It can raise blood pressure, increase the presence of some fats in the blood stream, and increase calorie intake, which in turn leads to overweight and obesity. One of the key characteristics of the hazardous pattern of drinking is the presence of heavy drinking occasions, defined as consumption of 60 or more grams of pure alcohol per day. Hazardous and harmful drinking results in 2.5 million deaths, each year, globally, of these 14 per cent are due to CVD and diabetes. High levels of alcohol consumption and binge drinking are associated with increased risk of CVD and harmful use of alcohol damages the heart muscle, increases the risk of stroke and promotes cardiac arrhythmia.

Alcohol use on the rise in India
With more than half of all alcohol drinkers in India falling into the criteria for hazardous drinking, alcohol abuse is emerging as a major public-health problem in the country. Raekha Prasad reports.

India’s reputation as a country with a culture of abstinence especially in matters regarding alcohol is underserved, say experts. The country, which has seen a rapid proliferation of city bars and nightclubs in recent years, is fast shedding its inhibitions about alcohol as a lifestyle choice.

This situation has led to fears of an undocumented rise in alcohol abuse not only among poorer classes but also in sections of society that were previously considered dry. The health minister has recognised the scale of the problem-and has called for a policy that will regulate sales and the pricing of drink.

Many experts say that although this move is welcome it may not be enough to curb the harmful effects of the rise in alcohol consumption in society. The increasing production, distribution, and promotion of alcohol has already seen drink-related problems emerging as a major public-health concern in India.

Sales of alcohol have seen a growth rate of 8% in the past 3 years. Officially, Indians are still among the world’s lowest consumers of alcohol-government statistics show only 21% of adult men and around 2% of women drink. But up to a fifth of this group-about 14 million people-are dependent drinkers requiring ‘help”.

The Lancet, Volume 373, Issue 9657, Pages 17 - 18, 3 January 2009


There has been a significant lowering of age at initiation of drinking. Data from Karnataka showed a drop from a mean of 28 years to 20 years, between the birth cohorts of 1920-30 and 1980-1990. Alcohol sales have registered a steady growth rate of 7-8% in the past three years. The largest expansion is seen in southern India, which has been driving most of this economic growth. It is visibly focused on the nontraditional segment of urban women and young people, with a noticeable upward shift in rates of drinking among urban middle and upper socioeconomic sections. The country liquor and whisky segment that earlier accounted for over 95% of documented consumption, has seen stagnation; the growth is in the non-traditional sectors of beer, white spirits and wine. A new segment of consumers is forming and a novel, convivial pattern is supplanting older drinking norms.

The local alcohol industry, quick to seize upon this emerging market, has introduced new products such as flavoured and mild alcoholic products, aimed to recruit nondrinkers, targeted primarily at women and young men.The industry circumvents bans on advertising by surrogate advertising, and the subject of alcohol advertising (surrogate and point-of-purchase) has changed from voluptuous pinups (targeting the traditional market of middle aged male consumers), to lifestyle advertisements promoting the spirit of good times, clearly aimed at women and youth.

Multinational alcohol beverage companies redeploying from shrinking markets in the developed world have identified India, with its growing consumer base, vast unexploited markets and commitments to the World Trade Organisation to reduce quantitative restrictions on alcohol imports as one of the most attractive markets for investment.


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