Alcohol Use in Films and Adolescent Alcohol Use by Andrea Waylen, Sam Leary, Andrew Ness and James Sargent
OBJECTIVES: To investigate whether exposure to alcohol use in films is associated with early alcohol use, binge drinking, and alcohol-related problems in British adolescents.
METHODS: Cross-sectional study with 5163 15-year-olds from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children in the United Kingdom. We measured adolescent exposure to alcohol use in films, age at onset of alcohol use, and binge-drinking behavior. We adjusted for early childhood social, family and behavioral factors, adolescent tobacco use, and peer drinking.
RESULTS: After adjustment, adolescents with the highest exposure to alcohol use in films were 1.2 times more likely to have tried alcohol compared with those least exposed and 1.7 times more likely to binge drink. They were 2.4 times more likely to drink weekly and 2.0 times more likely to have alcohol-related problems than those least exposed.
CONCLUSIONS: Exposure to alcohol use in films is associated with higher risk of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems in UK adolescents. Our findings provide evidence to support the argument that a review of film-rating categories and alcohol ratings for all films may help reduce problem-related alcohol consumption in young people.
The authors of a new study argue that a movie that depicts any type of drinking should automatically earn an MPAA R rating or BBFC equivalent.
The study , published by the journal Pediatrics , claims that teens who see drinking on the big screen are more likely to drink themselves.
Among a group of 5,163 15-year-olds from England, those who watched the most minutes of drinking on film were twice as likely to have alcohol-related problems as those who watched the fewest. They were also 2.4 times more likely to drink at least once a week and 70% more likely consume five or more drinks in a single day.
The study authors tried to gauge the teens’ exposure to drinking in movies. Researchers had watched 366 popular movies and counted up the amount of time that drinking was depicted in each of them. The teens were presented with a random sample of 50 of these movies and asked whether they had seen them. All of the minutes of drinking in all of the movies seen by each kid were added together, and the average was 47.3 minutes.
The 25% of teens with the lowest exposure — less than 28 minutes in total — served as the baseline. Those in the group with the highest exposure had seen at least 64 minutes of drinking.
After controlling for a variety of demographic and other factors, the researchers found that the more minutes of drinking the teens had watched, the greater the odds of all kinds of alcohol use. Compared with teens in the lowest-exposure group, those with the highest exposure were 20% more likely to have had a drink at least once; 70% more likely to have a history of binge-drinking; twice as likely to have an alcohol-related problem; and 2.4 times more likely to be drinking at least once a week.
To the extent that movies contribute to teen drinking, one suggested remedy would be to eliminate all drinking in movies made for minors, the study authors wrote. That means any film with even a glass of wine or a can of beer would invoke an R rating from the MPAA (or the equivalent from the British Board of Film Classification ).
It may sound sound ludicrous, but the researchers claim that this is justified because movie rating systems exist to protect children from seeing media that may adversely affect their behavior .
If the MPAA and BBFC were to follow the researchers’ advice, a lot of movies would get stricter ratings. A 2011 study in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that 72% of the top-grossing movies in the United Kingdom between 1989 and 2008 included scenes of drinking, but only 6% of them were rated for adults.
Of course the researchers didn’t bother to contemplate the effects of such a loss of credibility so essential to parents use of film ratings.