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Alcohol Advertisement and the Link Between Alcohol Consumption in Pupils and Peers

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Alcohol advertisement and the link between alcohol consumption in pupils and peers

By Jarred Thorne      

Major assignment for ATS1261 Understanding Human Behaviour 2014


Alcohol consumption is a prevalent activity that is experienced from the early stages of our youth through to adolescence and young adulthood [1]. In the time from mid-adolescence to early adulthood the amount of alcohol consumed and the regularity of the action becomes an increasing matter [2]. Inevitably we are exposed to alcohol in a timely matter over the period of our lives. This can be due to family experiences with our parents or friends of parents drinking in our presence. We are also exposed to this through advertising, mainly through watching the television and its advertisements.

Results from American studies suggest that young adults who witness more advertisements involving alcohol drank more on average [3]. By gaining results based on self-report measures of how often alcohol advertisements were witnessed in a month time frame and recording how many alcoholic beverages were consumed in that same time it was witnessed that youth exposed to more advertising showed growths in drinking intensities into the late twenties. This particular study into alcohol advertising concluded that alcohol advertising indeed contributes to an increase in alcohol consumption among youth [3].

Researchers in New Zealand looked into comparing university student’s beliefs of normal drinking behaviours with actual research into how much university students actually drink to examine the relationship between misperception and individual drinking [4]. This was done so by participants partaking in an online survey based around their personal drinking habits along with close friends of each respondent. Results showed that both women and men overestimated the amount to which their friends actually drink and that the extents of this were related to their personal drinking regularity [4].

There is a scarcity of research in the area of alcohol advertising and its effects on personal drinking habits along with perceived drinking habits by pupils among their friend groups. Due to this lack of information it is suggested to look further into these relationships to extend this research to determine any underlying factors. The aim of the present study is to examine the link between alcohol advertisements on television and the frequency of drinking habits along with the effects university students drinking habits and the link to peers amongst both males and females. Measures known as the AUDIT-C [5], adlike, and age of first alcohol consumption, among others will be used to test our hypothesis that there is a positive link between alcohol consumption and advertising along with friends drinking habits having a positive effect on our own consumption of alcohol.



Four Hundred undergraduate students from Monash University, Victoria, Australia, participated in the study as part of a course requirement. There were 295 (74%) females and 105 (26%) males in the sample. The mean age of participants was 19.7 ± 3.8 (mean ± SD). The mean BMI of participants was 22.45 ± 4.37 (mean ± SD).


Participants took part in an online survey that gathered demographic data (gender, age, height and weight) and also asked participants at what age they consumed their first alcoholic drink. The survey also contained a modified version of the 10 question Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT), originally developed in association with the World Health Organisation [6], known as the AUDIT-C to help identify persons who are hazardous drinkers or have active alcohol use disorders.

The AUDIT C subscales assess: (i) how often an alcoholic beverage is consumed; (ii) how many units of alcohol are consumed when drinking; and (iii) how often six or more units of alcohol are consumed on one occasion. Participants were required to submit answers relating to them personally and that of their peers. The survey also contained questions relating to sports and advertisement, firstly requiring participants to rate how frequently they noticed alcohol advertisements while watching sports, whether it is during breaks, on boards of a stadium or on player’s shirts. This was labelled as “Notice alc ads sport”. Secondly participants were asked to rate whether they agree to a statement of “I like adverts for alcohol more than adverts for other products” which was listed as “Adlike”.


        Participants were instructed to use a personal computer to gain access to the online survey and were to do so individually. They were first asked demographic questions relating to age, gender and height and weight (BMI), followed by what age they first consumed their first drink then questions from the AUDIT-C and questions relating to advertisement. Upon completion the survey was then to be submitted to collate and acquire results.

Participants were notified that they would remain anonymous when conducting the survey and that they were free to opt out of the study at any time. The study was considered to be minimal risk so no formal debrief was provided, although participants were informed that they could contact the researcher or student services if any concerns were had. Due to this they were provided with the necessary contact details. Informed consent was also obtained from the participants prior to taking part in the survey.

Statistical analysis

A descriptive analysis was conducted to obtain simple means and standard deviations for the survey (e.g., how much did males versus females drink) and whether the means were significantly different. An ANOVA was conducted for this to assess the differences between males and females on the variables of interest. Pearson’s correlation coefficients were also calculated to measure relationships between variables.


The mean age of first alcoholic drink was slightly lower in males (mean = 15.46, SD = 2.09) than it was in females (mean = 15.88, SD = 2.03). The mean scores for both the AUDIT-C Alcohol Consumption and AUDIT-C Friend Alcohol Consumption were higher in males (mean = 5.11, SD = 2.80 and mean = 6.27, SD = 2.44) when compared to females (mean = 3.70, SD = 2.59 and mean = 5.63, SD = 2.45). The last two measures that were looked at, the adlike and notice alc ads sport, once again showed that males (mean = 4.00, SD = 1.83 and mean = 2.81, SD = 1.23) had a higher score of means than females (mean = 3.16, SD = 1.69 and mean = 2.74, SD = 1.13).



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