Research & Resources

Exposure to Media with Alcohol-Related Content Across Young Adulthood: Associations with Risky Drinking and Consequences Among High-Risk 2- and 4-Year College Students

Exposure to media with alcohol-related content is a known risk for alcohol use and related harms among young people. The present study used longitudinal self-reported data on exposure to media with alcohol-related content to examine age trajectories across young adulthood and to estimate associations with heavy episodic drinking (HED) and negative consequences. Participants were 201 young adults, ages 18–25 at screening, enrolled in 2- and 4-year colleges. Repeated assessments occurred at four time points across a 12-month period. Self-reported exposure to both positively and negatively portrayed alcohol-related media content decreased with age. Between-persons, controlling for alcohol use frequency, exposure to positive alcohol-related media content was positively associated with HED, and exposure to negative alcohol-related media content was inversely associated with HED; no within-person effects on HED were significant. For negative consequences, controlling for alcohol quantity, exposure to positive media content was associated with more negative consequences both between- and within-persons. Unexpectedly, exposure to negatively portrayed media content was associated with more negative consequences at the within-person level. Overall, trajectories in exposure to media with alcohol-related content showed that relatively younger participants reported greater exposure, highlighting the need for policy and prevention efforts to protect this vulnerable demographic. Findings generally indicated that positive portrayals of alcohol use increase alcohol-related risks. Moreover, increased exposure to negative portrayals was associated with more negative consequences, potentially by normalizing or glorifying high-risk drinking and consequences, though causal research is needed.

This paper, “Exposure to media with alcohol-related content across young adulthood: Associations with risky drinking and consequences among high-risk 2- and 4-year college students,” was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and published in the journal Drug and alcohol review.

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