September 24, 2014 —

Every month, we’re keeping you informed on the latest studies and research in our “Not My Teen” blog series. Today, we’re looking at the relationship between alcohol brands favored by underage drinkers and their heavy exposure to alcohol brand advertising.

Teens can be easily influenced by the world around them. Teens tend to mimic what they see on TV, in magazines and on social networks, particularly risky behaviors as the consequences of such activities are often left unaddressed. New research suggests that heavy exposure to alcohol advertisements may cause teens to be more likely to consume alcohol. A study from the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health reveals that the brands of alcohol favored by underage drinkers are the same ones that are heavily advertised in magazines read by teens. 

In the study, researchers used national magazine readership data to identify which age groups received the greatest exposure to advertising for the top 25 alcohol brands consumed by underage males and females. Results showed that brands in the top 25 were advertised more heavily in magazines read by teenagers. Eleven brands exposed 18- to 20-year-old males more heavily than any other age group while 16 brands delivered greater advertising exposure to 18- to 20-year-old females than to any other age group. Overall, 18- to 20-year-olds were five to nine times more likely to be exposed to such magazine advertisements of popular alcohol brands consumed by underage youth.

"Young people, and especially young females, still read magazines, and the alcohol brands youth are being over-exposed to via magazine advertisements are the same brands they are choosing to drink," said lead study author Craig Ross, PhD., in reference to the study. These high levels of exposure to magazine advertising of alcohol among underage readers occur despite all advertising being in compliance with the alcohol industry self-regulatory codes, revealing that current guidelines may not be as protective as they should be of our nation’s youth.

As parents, it’s important to remain aware of what media content your teen is being exposed to and consistently communicate with your teen about the dangers of alcohol, drug and medicine abuse. When your teen knows about the potential consequences that come with engaging in risky behaviors, your teen will likely be less likely to be as easily swayed by the media and other influential sources.