Pop Music References To Alcohol Influence Teenaged Drinking
April 9, 2014

Alcohol Brands In Pop Music Influence Teens Drinking Habits

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

From Moet to Heineken, references to alcohol brands can be found throughout pop music and a new study has found a strong connection between liking music with these kinds of lyrics and drinking in teens and young adults.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, was based on a national survey of over 2,500 respondents. It found that individuals between 15 and 23 years old who could identify references to alcohol brands in songs were more than twice as likely to have ever had a complete drink, even after considering confounding factors. The study also found those who could identify alcohol brands had higher odds of being binge drinkers.

"Alcohol brand names are quite prevalent in popular music," said Lisa Henriksen, senior research scientist at the Stanford Prevention Research Center. "For example, hip-hop/rap lyrics favor luxury brands, such as Cristal and Hennessy, and brand references in rap music have increased four-fold over time, from eight percent in 1979 to 44 percent in 1997.”

“It would be foolish to think that the alcohol industry is unaware of and uninvolved with alcohol-brand mentions in music,” she added. “The strategy of associating products with hip culture and celebrities who are attractive to youth comes straight from a playbook written by the tobacco industry."

Of the more than 2,500 participants who completed the survey, 59 percent said they have had drink of alcohol - bottle of beer, a glass of wine or a shot of hard liquor. Of those who reported drinking, 18 percent claimed they had binged on a month-to-month basis and 37 percent reported issues, such as injuries, related to alcohol consumption.

The survey also included a web component in which volunteers received the titles of pop songs which include alcohol mentions and inquired if they enjoyed, owned the music. They also were tested to see if they could quickly recall what brand of alcohol was brought up in the lyrics.

"We created a scale that placed youth into three categories – low, medium, or high – based on how much they liked and owned music containing alcohol brand mentions," said study author Dr. Brian A. Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh. "Compared with people who were 'low' on this scale, people who were 'high' had more than three times the odds of ever having a complete drink of alcohol, which is an important outcome in this age group. Also compared with people who were 'low' on this scale, people who were 'high' had about twice the odds of ever bingeing on alcohol.”

“This outcome is especially problematic, because binges are particularly clinically relevant—it is on a binge that youth often get injuries or other serious problems,” he added.

"People often underestimate the impact of advertising on health behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, and eating energy-dense foods," Henriksen said. "The idea that people mistakenly assume that others' behaviors are more influenced by advertising than their own behaviors is known as the third-person effect."

"In terms of policy," Primack said, "it is worth considering whether or not payment to music stars by alcohol companies is in violation of current guidelines. For example, the Distilled Industries Council of the U.S., or DISCUS, states that 'Alcohol advertising and marketing materials should portray alcohol products and drinkers in a responsible manner.' This text is vague and challenging to interpret. However, if you watch a few music videos by stars who are spokespeople for alcohol companies, you would likely come away questioning whether these messages portray 'alcohol products and drinkers in a responsible manner.' Thus, it may not be a question of enacting new legislation, but rather one of simply enforcing current legislation."