New research published in the Journal of Public Health reveals that reality TV shows bombard viewers, including children and young people, with alcohol promotions.
Researchers analyzed 264 episodes from 20 reality TV programs broadcast from 2019 to 2020 in English-speaking countries. TV Shows included popular ones such as Love Island, Made in Chelsea, and Married at First Sight Australia.
The research team analyzed the shows’ content to examine the potential exposure children and young people have to harmful products, including alcohol, tobacco, and products high in fat, sugar, and salt (HFSS). To do this the researchers coded all the programs in 1-minute intervals for quantification. Then they measured the number of one-minute intervals containing tobacco, alcohol, and HFSS imagery. Their analysis included:
- Actual use,
- Implied use,
- Tobacco, alcohol or HFSS-related paraphernalia, and
- Product-specific branding.
To get an idea of how much the population is exposed to harmful product promotions content the researchers estimated population exposure for a sample of these programs using viewing data and UK population estimates.
Here’s what the researchers found:
- Alcohol appeared in 5167 intervals or 38% across 258 or 98% of the episodes studied.
- Content featuring alcohol was the most pervasive on TV shows among the three studied types of content.
- Actual alcohol use was shown in 966 intervals across 212 episodes.
- Wine and champagne were the most common type of alcohol products shown being consumed on screen.
- Implied alcohol use was seen in 4177 intervals across 250 episodes.
- The most common was showing a person holding an alcoholic beverage in hand.
- HFSS products appeared in 1752 or 13% of intervals viewed across 234 or 88% of episodes studied.
- Tobacco content appeared in 227 or 2% of intervals across 43 or 2% of episodes viewed.
- The analyzed content had 3.5 billion alcohol, 1.9 billion HFSS, and 157.4 million tobacco gross impressions to the UK population.
- These impressions include 12.6 million alcohol, 21.4 million HFSS, and 24,000 tobacco impressions on children.
Alcohol marketing is harmful to children and young people
Movendi International has previously exposed how alcohol marketing is harmful to children and young people. As Maik Dünnbier wrote in his blog post, some of the harmful effects of alcohol marketing on children, adolescents, and youth include:
- Early-onset of alcohol use,
- Higher amounts of alcohol consumption,
- More high-risk ways of consuming alcohol,
- Shaping positive attitudes, expectancies, and judgments towards alcohol, and
- Determining brand allegiance and loyalty for an entire life.
Alcohol consumption among youth leads to a substantial burden of disease and death – much of which can be prevented. The science is very clear that alcohol use in young people, especially early-onset among minors, increases the risk of,
- disrupting brain development,
- developing alcohol use problems later in life,
- unwanted pregnancies,
- contracting transmissible diseases,
- being injured, or even killed through violence and road traffic crashes.
Since the human brain develops until the age of 25, alcohol consumption poses a developmental risk to children and youth, affecting the development of cognitive and intellectual capacities.
Despite the negative effect of alcohol products and promotions on children and young people and laws prohibiting targeting minors under 18 years with alcohol marketing, the alcohol industry is known to market to this demography. Why? The alcohol industry profits from underage alcohol use.
The alcohol industry makes a substantial amount of its profits from underage alcohol use in the U.S. market alone. The total sales revenue from minors consuming alcohol was $17.5 billion (7.4%) out of $237.1 billion in 2016.
A study of youth aged 15 to 26 years in the U.S. found:
- Young people consumed 1% more alcohol for each additional ad seen per month.
- They consumed 3% more alcohol with each additional dollar spent per capita on alcohol ads in their media market.
- Youth in markets with more alcohol advertisements showed increased consumption levels into their late 20s.
- But alcohol use plateaued in the early 20s for youth in markets with fewer advertisements.
The alcohol industry needs underage alcohol use for a significant part of their profits. They also need to market their brands to children to maintain and increase alcohol use of young ‘loyal’ consumers, as they enter adult life,” wrote Maik Dünnbier, Director of Strategy and Advocacy at Movendi International, in his opinion piece titled ‘Three Ways Alcohol Marketing Causes Harm and One Effective Solution‘.Maik Dünnbier, Director of Strategy and Advocacy, Movendi International
Civil society calls on the UK government to protect children from alcohol marketing
The Alcohol Health Alliance UK, a coalition of more than 60 civil society organisations working to protect people from the harm caused by the alcohol industry in Britain, has called on the UK government to take the necessary action to reduce young people’s exposure to alcohol imagery while watching TV.
Seeing people [use] alcohol on our television screens glamorizes [alcohol use] and helps create a culture where alcohol is seen as an essential part of everyday life,” said Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance, as per Wales Online.Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance