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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Maryland Finds Youth Alcohol Choices Linked to the Media They Consume

The alcohol brands favored by underage drinkers are directly related to their media consumption, according to a study led by University of Maryland School of Public Health Professor Dr. Dina Borzekowski and colleagues from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Boston University School of Public Health.

[Photo: Dr. Dina Borzekowski]

The study, published in the Journal of Health Communication: International Perspectives, shows a significant link between the ways underage drinkers consume media and the brands of alcohol they drink, which could lead to important future studies examining the effect of alcohol messages in media on underage drinking.

The connection between alcohol advertising and underage drinking has been studied before, but never with such specific attention to media consumption habits and different alcohol brands. Researchers surveyed a national panel of 1,032 underage youth 13–20 years of age who had consumed at least 1 drink in the past 30 days and identified four distinct patterns of media consumption: general audience, celebrity viewers, heavy mainstream media users, and late-night cable viewers. Even after adjusting results for behavioral risk factors such as sex, race, ethnicity, household income, U.S. geographic region, frequency of parents’ alcohol over consumption, cigarette smoking, and seat belt use, researchers found that youth with certain media habits tended to favor specific brands of alcohol.

“These findings make sense, especially if you think of when and where different alcohol brands are being advertised,” said Dr. Borzekowski, a research professor in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health. “For example, adolescents who were frequent viewers of late-night programs (i.e., The Daily Show, Colbert Report) were more likely to be familiar with Heineken, compared to heavy mainstream media users (Law and Order: SVU, magazine readers, cable reality shows).”

Of the four media-use “clusters” identified, male youth who were mainly late-night cable and heavy mainstream media consumers preferred Coors Light, and female youth who were heavy mainstream media consumers drank more Budweiser. Youth of both genders who consumed mostly celebrity media tended to prefer alcopops, or flavored alcoholic drinks.

Borzekowski, an internationally recognized expert on children, media, and health, studies how youth use media and how media has an impact on the health and well-being of children and adolescents. The results of this research could lead to more narrowly targeted anti-drinking messages in media, as well as further studies on the relationship between brand advertising and consumption.