Alcohol ads: How do they affect teen behavior?

alcohol ads and adolescents

Parents often worry over what kind of things their children are learning from the TV programs they watch. Many parents will even monitor the shows their kids watch in an effort to protect them. This is commendable but the question should be asked how many parents are trying to protect their children from advertisements?

Those who watch TV will commonly complain about the number of ads interrupting their show or laugh at the more unique ads. However, very few individuals really consider the mark that ads leave on the viewer. The truth is that those advertisements may have a bigger affect than expected. This is especially true for children and teens when they are exposed to advertisements about alcohol.

A recent study has found that alcohol ads that reach children and teens can lead them to drink for the first time or to increase their drinking should they already be experienced underage drinkers. This study was published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics in January 2015.

The study was set up to examine the reach of television alcohol ads and their affect on the drinking of underage adolescents. Researchers looked at telephone and web-based surveys of 2541 US adolescents ages 15 to 23 that were conducted in 2011 and 2013. They also examined the follow-up surveys of the 1596 respondents who completed them. The survey respondents were asked about 20 randomly selected images from television ads for top beer and distilled spirit brand.

Each image was edited so the branding had been removed. Respondents were scored on their receptivity based on in they have seen the ad, if they liked the ad and if they had recognized the correct brand. To measure specificity, respondents were also asked about fast-food ads. Researchers also determined the onset of drinking in underage adolescents who never drank, the onset of binge drinking among those who were never binge drinkers and the onset of hazardous drinking among those with a score of less than four on the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test.

The results of the study indicated that the underage participants in the study were only slightly less likely to have seen alcohol ads compared to those of legal drinking age. Respectively, youth ages 12 to 17 were 23.4 percent likely to have seen an alcohol ad compared to 22.7 percent for youth ages 28 to 20 years of age and 25.6 percent for young adult’s ages 21 to 23. In addition to this, researchers also found that the transition into binge and hazardous drinking occurred for 29 and 18 percent of adolescents ages 15 to 17 and for 29 and 19 percent of teens and young adults ages 18 to 20. When compared with the alcohol ad receptivity score, the age of drinking onset and the onset of hazardous drinking were independently predicted. In other words, those adolescents who liked the alcohol ads and could correctly identify them were more likely to try drinking or drink more later on.

This doesn’t mean that parents should be throwing out their TVs or covering their children’s eyes whenever a commercial for alcohol comes on. This study points to the fact that marketing self-regulation of alcohol advertisements have failed to keep their ads from reaching larger audiences of underage adolescents. This is problematic considering the fact that these ads can affects the drinking patterns of these underage individuals.  This may lead to new regulation and changes in how alcohol is advertised. Parents may also want to take note. It is almost impossible to shield adolescents and teens from all alcohol advertising but it can make a difference to talk to adolescents about the dangers of alcohol and responsible drinking.

For those teens who are already struggling with hazardous drinking patterns, it is in their best interest to seek out a treatment program which will help halt their alcohol abuse. To learn more about treatment for alcohol abuse in teen boys you can call 866-520-0905 or visit for more information.

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