A survey of adolescents in six European countries found that the more exposure teens had to alcohol use in movies, the more likely they were to binge drink. The study, “Alcohol Consumption in Movies and Adolescent Binge Drinking in 6 European Countries,” in the April 2012 Pediatrics (published online March 5), is the largest study conducted to date, with more than 16,500 students ages 10 to 19 in Germany, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and Scotland. The students were asked how often they had had 5 or more drinks on one occasion, and what popular movies they watched (in each country, the majority were Hollywood blockbusters). Movies were content coded for screen depictions of alcohol use.
Overall, 27 percent of the adolescents had consumed 5 or more drinks at least once, but this varied substantially between countries (from 6 percent in Iceland, to 38 percent in the Netherlands). In each country, there was a range of movie alcohol exposure, and teens who had seen more alcohol use in movies were significantly more likely to have engaged in binge drinking, even after controlling for other factors like age, affluence and rebelliousness.
This pattern was observed across cultures in countries with different norms regarding teen and adult alcohol use and drinking culture. Study authors conclude this raises concern about the role popular movies may play in early patterns of alcohol consumption among adolescents all over the world, because of the global distribution of movies with drinking and the widespread failure to consider alcohol in movie ratings systems.