This study used prospective data to test the hypothesis that exposure to alcohol advertising contributes to an increase in underage drinking and that an increase in underage drinking then leads to problems associated with drinking alcohol.
A total of 3890 students were surveyed once per year across 4 years from the 7th through the 10th grades. Assessments included several measures of exposure to alcohol advertising, alcohol use, problems related to alcohol use, and a range of covariates, such as age, drinking by peers, drinking by close adults, playing sports, general TV watching, acculturation, parents’ jobs, and parents’ education.
Structural equation modeling of alcohol consumption showed that exposure to alcohol ads and/or liking of those ads in seventh grade were predictive of the latent growth factors for alcohol use (past 30 days and past 6 months) after controlling for covariates. In addition, there was a significant total effect for boys and a significant mediated effect for girls of exposure to alcohol ads and liking of those ads in 7th grade through latent growth factors for alcohol use on alcohol-related problems in 10th grade.
Younger adolescents appear to be susceptible to the persuasive messages contained in alcohol commercials broadcast on TV, which sometimes results in a positive affective reaction to the ads. Alcohol ad exposure and the affective reaction to those ads influence some youth to drink more and experience drinking-related problems later in adolescence.