A British study has found that seeing many instances of drinking alcohol in movies is associated with a higher risk of alcohol use and alcohol-related problems in British teens. Teens who said they saw a lot of alcohol use in movies were twice as likely to drink or have problems with alcohol. This finding supports the idea of creating a rating system for movies that includes information on scenes of alcohol use.
Researchers analyzed data from a long-term study of children born between 1991 and 1992, who have been followed periodically since they were born. More than 5,000 of these children were asked to complete a computer-based interview when they were 15 years old. The interview asked them if they had seen 50 randomly selected popular movies that had been coded for the number of seconds of alcohol use they contained. The total number of seconds that the teens had seen alcohol used in a movie was then calculated. The interview also asked teens about their personal use of alcohol, their smoking habits, and their peers' drinking habits.
The teens that had seen the least amount of alcohol use in movies had seen 27 minutes or fewer. The highest group had seen between 45 and 62 minutes of alcohol use.
The study found that the teens that had seen the highest number of minutes of alcohol use were about twice as likely to use alcohol weekly, to binge drink, or to have had alcohol-related problems as those in the lowest exposure group. However, whether a cause-and-effect relationship exists cannot be determined.
Previous studies in the United States and elsewhere have found that exposure to alcohol in movies predicts teen alcohol use.
The Motion Picture Association of America, the group that creates the movie rating system, does not specifically mention alcohol use in its movie ratings criteria.