Scholars from the University of Pittsburgh and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Norris Cotton Cancer Center are associating binge drinking in both adults and teens with liking, owning and identifying a certain kind of music.
The weak observational results are published in Alcoholism: Clinical&Experimental Research and are certain to cause a buzz in mainstream media because the finding is based on a national randomized survey of over 2,541 people ages 15 to 23 and says that musicians who make alcohol brand references in popular music are to blame if kids get drunk.
Of the 2,541 participants who completed the survey, 1,488, or 59 percent, reported having had a complete alcoholic drink, defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Of those, 18 percent reported binging – or drinking heavily over a short period of time – at least monthly and 37 percent reported having had problems, such as injuries, due to alcohol.
In the survey, which could be completed either through the Internet or on paper, participants were given the titles of popular songs with alcohol mentions and asked if they liked the song or owned the song. They were also tested to determine if they could spontaneously recall what brand of alcohol was mentioned in the song.
Survey participants who could correctly recall alcohol brands in songs had more than twice the odds of having had a complete alcoholic drink, compared to those who could not recall the alcohol brand, even after adjusting for factors including age, socioeconomic status, and alcohol use by a parent or friend. The participants who could identify the alcohol brands in songs also had greater odds of binge alcohol use.
It isn't like pop musicians are being paid, they just happen to like something or other and it makes them seem cool or edgy to invoke a drink. Still, the authors urge policymakers "to limit the influence of alcohol brand references in popular music", which sounds a lot like a ban.
"Brand references may serve as advertising, even if they are not paid for by the industry," said senior author James D. Sargent, MD, co-director of the Cancer Control Research Program at Norris Cotton Cancer Center and professor of pediatrics in the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth.
"Every year, the average adolescent is exposed to about 3,000 references to alcohol brands while listening to music," said lead author Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Program for Research on Media and Health, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "It is important that we understand the impact of these references to alcohol brands in an age group that can be negatively impacted by alcohol consumption.
"A surprising result of our analysis was that the association between recalling alcohol brands in popular music and alcohol drinking in adolescents was as strong as the influence of parental and peer drinking, and an adolescent's tendency toward sensation-seeking. This may illustrate the value that this age group places in the perceived opinions and actions of music stars."
The authors suggest that one possible solution could be to empower adolescents with critical thinking skills, though if you have seen Common Core tests you know they are being taught plenty of critical thinking skills and are not learning anything of actual value. "Media literacy is a growing educational methodology that may be successful in helping young people make healthier decisions," Pimrack said. "In the case of alcohol, it may be valuable to help them understand how alcohol brand references in music may manipulate their thoughts and emotions to sell them a product."