HealthDay News — Teens who watch movies that depict alcohol consumption are more likely to binge drink than those who do not, findings from a multi-national study indicate.

Exposure to binge drinking in movies was associated with binge drinking habits in adolescents (P<0.001) across six European countries, Reiner Hanewinkel, PhD, of University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Kiel, Germany, and colleagues reported in Pediatrics.

The findings remained significant even after the researchers adjusted for factors including age, gender, family affluence, school performance, television screen time, sensation seeking and rebelliousness, and frequency of drinking among peers, parents and siblings.

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“Although these cross-sectional findings need to be confirmed through studies with a longitudinal design, our findings raise concern about the role popular movies may play in Europe and beyond in the early experimentation with patterns of alcohol consumption in adolescents,” the researchers wrote. “These patterns have the potential to have a detrimental influence on individual health and future drinking trajectories and to be costly at a societal level.”

Hanewinkel and colleagues surveyed 16,551 students (mean age 13.4 years) from  Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland and Scotland, estimating exposure to alcohol use depicted in movies by coding the number of alcohol occurrences in the 250 top-grossing movies in each country from 2004 to 2009. Students were asked if they had seen any of 50 randomly selected movies on their country’s list and if they had participated in binging drinking, defined as consuming five or more alcoholic beverages on one occasion.

Overall, 27% of participants reported binge drinking at least once in their lifetime, ranging from 7% in Iceland to 40% in Scotland. Teenagers from Germany and Netherlands reported the lowest exposure to alcohol use in movies, whereas those from Iceland and Italy reported the highest.

The crude relationship between movie alcohol use exposure and lifetime binge drinking was significant in all countries. After adjusting for covariates, the relationship was still significant in all but Iceland.

“The results suggest that if steps were taken to decrease exposure of adolescents to movie depictions of alcohol, then fewer young people would take up binge drinking,” the researchers wrote.

Study limitations include calculating movie alcohol exposure based on student recall and potential bias from students who did not complete the survey due to absence or lack of consent.

Hanewinkle R et al. Pediatrics. 2012; doi:10.1542/peds.2011-2809.