To investigate the hypothesis that exposure to alcohol consumption in movies affects the likelihood that low-risk adolescents will start to drink alcohol.
Longitudinal study of 2346 adolescent never drinkers who also reported at baseline intent to not to do so in the next 12 months (mean age 12.9 years, SD = 1.08). Recruitment was carried out in 2009 and 2010 in 112 state-funded schools in Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, and Scotland. Exposure to movie alcohol consumption was estimated from 250 top-grossing movies in each country in the years 2004 to 2009. Multilevel mixed-effects Poisson regressions assessed the relationship between baseline exposure to movie alcohol consumption and initiation of trying alcohol, and binge drinking (≥ 5 consecutive drinks) at follow-up.
Overall, 40% of the sample initiated alcohol use and 6% initiated binge drinking by follow-up. Estimated mean exposure to movie alcohol consumption was 3653 (SD = 2448) occurrences. After age, gender, family affluence, school performance, TV screen time, personality characteristics, and drinking behavior of peers, parents, and siblings were controlled for, exposure to each additional 1000 movie alcohol occurrences was significantly associated with increased relative risk for trying alcohol, incidence rate ratio = 1.05 (95% confidence interval, 1.02–1.08; P = .003), and for binge drinking, incidence rate ratio = 1.13 (95% confidence interval, 1.06–1.20; P < .001).
Seeing alcohol depictions in movies is an independent predictor of drinking initiation, particularly for more risky patterns of drinking. This result was shown in a heterogeneous sample of European youths who had a low affinity for drinking alcohol at the time of exposure.