Watching young people drink makes young people drink

The trigger that prompts alcohol consumption in young men may be nothing more than seeing others do it on TV.

The trigger that prompts young men to drink alcohol may be nothing more than watching others do so on TV.

In the journal Alcohol & Alcoholism, lead researcher Rutger C.M.E. Engels, PhD and colleagues showed 80 men between the ages of 18 and 29 one of two films, interspersed with commercials. One film (they were both raunchy comedies) features a lot of characters drinking: one did not. The room was set up with snacks, and a choice of beer, wine, or soda. Young men watched two at a time.

The young men watching the film with relatively little alcohol content had an average of 1.69 alcoholic drinks. Those who watched the film with more alcohol-including scenes drank 2.98 alcoholic drinks.

The young men’s average alcoholic consumption was 21.05 drinks a week, which included heavy drinking on multiple nights every week. About half of those who switched from soda to a hard drink did so after viewing ads for alcohol: the other half did so while watching the more alcohol-heavy film.