Influence of alcohol advertising on intention to use alcohol among college students



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Background: There is little experimental research examining the influence of televised alcohol commercials on young adults’ alcohol use intentions. The aim of this study was to examine the influence of alcohol commercials on the attitudes and intentions to use alcohol among college students. Methods: A sample of 100 undergraduate students (18 to 25 years) viewed a popular half-hour television show with four alcohol commercials within advertising blocks. The participants completed pretest and posttest surveys measuring their intentions and attitudes. Separate Paired-Samples T-tests and non-parametric Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests were conducted to test for change in average levels of intentions and attitudes after exposure to alcohol commercials. Analyses were conducted with and without one outlier on the intention item in order to gain a full understanding of our findings. Missing data ranged from 1% to 3%, therefore, individual models vary in sample size. Results: A majority of the participants were female (72%), one third were white (34%), and the average age was 21 years old. Approximately 75% of our sample had at least one drink in the past 30 days (40% of these students were underage n=30). Results of the Paired-Samples t-tests and Wilcoxon Signed Rank tests indicated a statistically significant increase in intentions to use alcohol in the next 30 days (p<0.05). Additional analyses that excluded the outlier resulted in non-significant findings, although findings approached significance (p<0.09). Of the reasons to use alcohol, only “to feel less stressed” decreased significantly. Conclusion: This study examined the influence of televised alcohol advertising on young adult’s attitudes and intentions using an experimental design. Of the attitude measures, only “to feel less stressed” changed significantly and this change was in the opposite direction hypothesized. However, our results suggest alcohol commercials increase intentions to use alcohol among college students. These findings are important as young adults may be exposed to many more alcohol commercials in a sitting than were included in the present study. This study likely underestimates the influence of televised alcohol commercials on intentions to use alcohol. Future research should expand attitude items and include a greater variety of alcohol commercials.