Social Media Linked to Underage Drinking
July 2, 2018
Most teenagers spend an inordinate amount of time on social media, and that means they are also exposed to ads touting the lure of drinking alcoholic beverages. Until now, no one really knew how the use of social media and the exposure of young people to alcohol advertising influenced underage drinking and adolescent drinking patterns.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine have found a statistically significant correlation between the amount of time a teenager spends on social media and underage drinking, along with problems relating to alcohol. According to the researchers, 71 percent of teenagers use more than one social media site and spend an average of 9 hours a day online.
According to the researchers, just under 9 percent of adolescents, those under age 18, have consumed alcohol within the past 30 days. The number jumps significantly for young adults, aged 18 to 20, who are still under the legal drinking age of 21. That number is approximately 57 percent.
How the Study was Conducted
Researchers conducted the study by using data from 9,000 users of social media, with Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and Twitter included in the analysis. They focused on 19 articles for their analysis, examining teen and young adult comments, likes, and separate posts regarding drinking, drinking issues, and photos of alcohol consumption. Viewing content relating to drinking on social media was also included. The researchers collected and analyzed data regarding the commenters alcohol consumption, as well as alcohol-related problems such as becoming sick from drinking, blacking out, second thoughts about drinking, and injuries occurring due to alcohol consumption.
The study concludes that there is a moderate connection between social media and alcohol consumption, and a greater connection between social media and people having issues with alcohol. Overall, greater alcohol‐related social media engagement correlated with more self‐reported drinking by underage youth and more alcohol‐related problems. Researchers note that ads for drinking on social media, along with non-advertorial posts regarding alcohol use, exposes teens to alcohol and its marketing. This saturation normalizes drinking and may lead to underage alcohol consumption.
More Research Needed
Penn Medicine researchers say additional research is needed to determine the cause and relationship between alcohol and social media in young people. If the causal association is found, interventions from a social media perspective for teens and young adults who are experiencing alcohol-related issues are needed. The aim is to find ways to reduce both underage alcohol consumption and the negative consequences of such behavior.
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