How Does Alcohol Advertising Effect Youth?
Written by Kidra Avery, a CSUCI Service-Learning student.
Throughout the Fall 2020 semester, my Social Problems course had the opportunity to do community service with a nonprofit called BRITE. They are a youth development program that helps adolescents and adults understand the effects of drug and alcohol use among teens. It is of no surprise that Americans’ consume a lot of alcohol, or that they like to binge drink often. Social media has proven to be problematic in many ways, including but not limited to alcohol marketing. Teens have complete access to alcohol marketing, thanks to media sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. According to Pylypczuk, Pawlowska, Potembska, Urbanska, and Malicki, self-image and anger are two distinct differences in children who were raised with alcoholic parents, and the child’s likelihood of being plagued by the same disease (alcoholism) skyrockets (Pylypczuk et al., 2016). Researchers say that alcohol consumption among young adults, and women, is increasing over time (Patrick et al. 2019). All of the research points to a perfect storm having been created in our society, which is feeding into a vicious cycle of generations being hooked on alcohol, and perpetuating this disease.
Alcohol use is the leading cause of death and disability for persons between the ages of 15 and 24 in almost every region of the world (Jernigan & Rushman, 2011). Marketers have always indirectly targeted children and adolescents. The labels on the bottles are perfectly placed with vibrant colors, large writing, and even memorable graphics; which is a brilliant idea to make everyone drinking their beverage a brand ambassador. For example, if you’re in San Francisco at Mission Dolores Park where it’s ok to openly drink outside, then you’ll see all kinds of beverages in peoples hands while they laugh and dance and have the time of their lives.
Again, brands are intelligent about how they market to individuals and groups. With children and adolescents, they see labels everywhere while also paying close attention to the type of atmosphere that’s been created around them. This is extremely problematic because of the nature of alcohol and the ease of its addictive persuasion. By marketing to adolescents, these companies are creating lifelong customers.
Researchers found that alcohol brands don’t have very many restrictions set in place, and the ones they do have are subpar (Jernigan & Rushman, 2011). The authors note that social media sites are partially to blame with their lack of control for dishonesty; there is currently no way for sites like Facebook, Youtube and Twitter to ensure that people are entering their correct age when creating an account. I was curious to know whether or not this was true, so I created a fake email address with Yahoo and said I was 13 years old, followed by creating a Facebook account where I stated that I was 21; to my surprise, the accounts don’t talk to each other when it comes to age, so my fake age was accepted. I then went directly to the search tab within Facebook and typed in “alcohol,” and everything my heart could possibly desire to view was now at my fingertips. Surveillance of the alcohol business and social media were listed as a solution to this issue.
Pylypczuk et al. had interesting findings as well. They found that there are specific personality traits in children who are raised by alcoholic parents and became alcoholics themselves (Pylypczuk et al., 2016). Women are more prone to lower self-esteem, less leadership qualities, narcissism, isolation and less self-discipline or confidence. Women also have a greater need for more support, care, and dependence, among other things. Men were found to have elevated narcissism, anger, and physical aggression, and a “conviction about having special abilities and increased revenge towards the people by whom they feel to be criticized” (Pylypczuk et al., 2016, p. 120). Both men and women were found to have less coping mechanisms for stress, problems with personal development, lacking interpersonal relationship skills, mental disorders appearing in their offspring, and as previously stated, elevated rates of narcissism. The study specifically compared those who were non-alcoholics raised by non-alcoholic parents, and alcoholics raised by alcoholic parents. More availability for psychological aid and effective therapy were listed as possible solutions.
Binge drinking is defined as 5 or more drinks in about 2 hours in the study done by Megan E. Patrick and associates (Patrick et al., 2019). They used a previous study which examined binge drinking from the years 1976-1985 and found that there were high numbers of underage drinking. They also found that the official drinking age of the country hadn’t been set into place in all 50 states until 1988, though the Uniform Drinking Age Act was passed in 1984.
Men made up the larger population of binge drinking during this time. 1986-1995 was the next study, which surveyed 20-30 year olds, men still having the higher drinking rates and starting at a younger age than women. The third set of dates were 1996-2004 where they happily found that binge drinking rates were starting later on in young adulthood. The larger majority was starting to binge drink around the age of 22 for women, and 23 for men, though the peak lasted longer for men. The authors also note that whites made up the large majority of binge drinkers compared to non-white individuals. Dropping out of high school is also associated with increased binge drinking, although those individuals were not included in the study. The authors suggest interventions be made before adulthood, because of the rising number of adolescent binge drinking behaviors.
- Jernigan, D., & Rushman, A. (2014). Measuring Youth Exposure to Alcohol Marketing on Social Networking Sites: Challenges and Prospects. Journal of Public Health Policy,35(1), 91-104. Retrieved December 7, 2020, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/43288007
- Broken. Netflix. Sarah Holm Johansen. Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Joe Caterini, Chris Cechin-De La Rosa, David Mettler. Jonathan Jordan. 2019. Netflix. https://www.netflix.com/watch/81002636?trackId=200257859