Young teenagers who drink alcohol have typically been exposed to drinking on-screen.
Ten to 14 year old children who watch a lot of movies featuring alcohol are twice as likely to drink, according to new research.
Experts questioned more than 6,500 youngsters four times, asking in each session whether they had seen any of 50 films selected at random.
The teenagers were also asked in each survey if they had ever drunk alcohol behind their parents’ back and at what point they started binge-drinking (having five or more drinks in a row).
The films were then analysed for alcohol use, defined as a character’s actual or implied consumption or purchase of alcohol.
The study found that youngsters had typically seen around 4.5 hours of on-screen alcohol use and many had seen more than eight hours.
It also looked at the impact of parental drinking and children owning merchandise carrying alcohol brands.
Some 11 per cent of the teenagers said they owned branded merchandise, such as a T-shirt or hat with the name of a beer on it.
Almost one in four (23 per cent) said their parents drank alcohol at least once a week at home while 29 per cent said they were able to get hold of alcohol at home.
Over the course of the surveys, which were spread over two years, the proportion of teens who started drinking alcohol more than doubled from 11 to 25 per cent, while the proportion who began binge-drinking more than tripled from 4 to 13 per cent.
Parents who drank at home and availability of alcohol in the home were linked with youngsters taking up drinking, but not progression to binge-drinking.
Exposure to alcohol in movies, owning branded merchandise, having friends who drank and rebelliousness were associated with both.
The results showed that children who watched the most films featuring alcohol were just over twice as likely to have drunk alcohol and 63 per cent more likely to have made the transition to binge-drinking than those who watched few such films.
Exposure to drinking in films accounted for 28 per cent of the proportion of children who became drinkers and 20 per cent of the progression to binge-drinking, ‘making it a risk factor with important public health implications’, said the experts, from several U.S. universities.
Writing in the journal BMJ Open, they said alcohol product placement in movies was to blame for some of the influence on teenage drinking habits.
‘Product placement in movies is forbidden for cigarettes in the U.S., 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 said.
The depiction of smoking in movies has fallen, they said, and suggested alcohol in movies ‘may deserve similar emphasis’.
They said: ‘Like influenza, images in Hollywood movies begin in one region of the world then spread globally, where they may affect drinking behaviors of adolescents everywhere they are distributed.’
Via Daily Mail