Claremont Graduate University Study Links Alcohol Ads to Underage Drinking and Related Problems

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A survey of middle school students finds that exposure to alcohol ads on TV may influence alcohol use and alcohol-related problems. Researchers recommend media education and limiting exposure of youth to alcohol ads.

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Students who start to drink early are much more likely to have alcohol abuse and dependence problems throughout their lifetimes.

Seventh graders who are exposed to alcohol ads on television, and who say they like the ads, may experience more severe problems related to drinking alcohol later in their adolescence, according to a new study led by researchers in Claremont Graduate University (CGU's) School of Community and Global Health.

The study, “Exposure to Alcohol Advertisements and Teenage Alcohol-Related Problems,” is published in the February 2013 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

The researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 seventh graders, then followed up with the same students in eighth, ninth and 10th grades. 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 research team concluded 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.

"Underage drinking is a serious public health concern," said Jerry Grenard, assistant professor in CGU's School of Community and Global Health. "Students who start to drink early are much more likely to have alcohol abuse and dependence problems throughout their lifetimes. Underage drinking also contributes to one of the major causes of death in this age group, and that's accidental death, car accidents in particular."

Grenard partnered in the research with CGU Professor Alan Stacy and Clyde Dent of the Oregon Department of Human Services' Office of Disease Prevention and Epidemiology.

The project was funded by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which are both branches of the National Institutes of Health.

About Claremont Graduate University

Founded in 1925, Claremont Graduate University is the graduate university of the Claremont Colleges. Our five academic schools conduct leading-edge research and award masters and doctoral degrees in 24 disciplines. Because the world’s problems are not simple nor easily defined, diverse faculty and students research and study across the traditional discipline boundaries to create new and practical solutions for the major problems plaguing our world. A Southern California based graduate school devoted entirely to graduate research and study, CGU boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio.

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