(HealthDay News) – Media exposure, including viewing films featuring alcohol and alcohol-related merchandise, influence both onset age of teenage alcohol consumption and binge drinking, whereas family drinking characteristics influence only onset age of alcohol consumption, according to a study published online Feb. 20 in BMJ Open.

Mike Stoolmiller, PhD, of the University of Oregon in Eugene, and colleagues conducted a series of four confidential telephone surveys on a representative sample of 6,522 U.S. adolescents over two years. At baseline, the teenagers were aged 10–14 years.

The researchers found that the prevalence of adolescents reporting ever drinking increased from 11% to 25% over the two-year study period, and those reporting binge drinking increased from 4% to 13%. At baseline, the median estimated movie alcohol exposure (MAE) from 532 selected popular movies was 4.5 hours. Eleven percent of adolescents owned alcohol-branded merchandise at the time of the second survey. Parental alcohol use (greater than or equal to weekly) was reported by 23% of respondents, and 29% of adolescents could obtain alcohol from home. Peer drinking, MAE, alcohol-branded merchandise, age, and rebelliousness were associated with both alcohol onset and progression to binge drinking. The adjusted hazard ratios for alcohol onset and binge drinking transition were 2.13 for high MAE and 1.63 for low MAE. MAE accounted for 28% of the alcohol onset and 20 percent of the binge drinking transitions. Characteristics of the family were associated with alcohol onset but not with progression.

“The results suggest that family focused interventions would have a larger impact on alcohol onset, while limiting media and marketing exposure could help prevent both onset and progression,” the authors write.

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