How Do Movies Affect Teens' Drinking Habits?


Superbad, Neighbors, and The Hangover — what do these movies have in common? Besides being popular comedies, all three feature plots focused on drinking. Alcohol fuels a majority of the humor in these films, but does seeing this behavior on-screen have real-life repercussions? Believe it or not, a new study says yes. The journal of Pediatrics reports that 15-year-olds who see alcohol consumed in movies are more likely to drink than their peers. They're also more likely to develop alcohol-related problems later on.

The study's lead author Andrea Waylen explains,

It’s not very often that we see the adverse effects of alcohol portrayed—like vomiting, rotten hangovers. In my view, we don’t really get an accurate representation of what alcohol is like.

ShutterstockUsually the characters make alcohol seem appealing "in films where alcohol use is made to look cool, get you friends, win the girl or boy," Waylen says. This could explain why teens who watch these movies are more likely to drink—they may mistakenly believe their lives will instantly improve, just like the characters on-screen.

Of course it'd be unrealistic to ask teens to stop watching these kinds of comedies. Instead, have an honest discussion about the risks associated with alcohol. Studies show that having direct and repeated conversations with teens about drinking can be an effective way to help them stand up to peer pressure.

If you're not sure how to get the conversation started, we've got you covered! Here are a few resource suggestions:

• Share "The Danger of Just One Drink" story from our April issue. It features infographics, including an exit strategy flow chart to help them navigate tricky party situations.

• This article — "Alcohol Poisoning: The Death You Don't See Coming" —takes a serious look at the dangers of binge-drinking. Pass the link on to your teens!

• Watch this "How To Deal" video filled with tips and tricks for standing up to peer pressure. Whether using humor or deflecting the attention, there are strategies for every personality type: