Alcohol use is frequently portrayed in television programming and advertising. Exposure to media portrayals of alcohol use may lead to increased drinking. To address this issue, we examined prospectively the associations between media exposure and alcohol use in adolescents.


Prospective cohort study.


Six public high schools in San Jose, California.


Ninth-grade students (N = 1533; mean age = 14.6 years).

Outcome Measures.

Students reported hours of television, music video, and videotape viewing; computer and video game use; and lifetime and past 30 days' alcohol use at baseline and 18 months later. Associations between baseline media exposure and subsequent alcohol use were examined with multiple logistic regression.


During the 18-month follow-up, 36.2% of baseline nondrinkers began drinking and 50.7% of baseline drinkers continued to drink. Onset of drinking was significantly associated with baseline hours of television viewing (odds ratio [OR] = 1.09; 95% confidence interval [95% CI] = 1.01–1.18), music video viewing (OR = 1.31; 95% CI = 1.17–1.47), and videotape viewing (OR = 0.89; 95% CI = 0.79–0.99), controlling for age, sex, ethnicity, and other media use. Computer and video game use was not significantly associated with the subsequent onset of drinking. Among baseline drinkers, there were no significant associations between baseline media use and maintenance of drinking.


Increased television and music video viewing are risk factors for the onset of alcohol use in adolescents. Attempts to prevent adolescent alcohol use should address the adverse influences of alcohol use in the media.

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