YouTube videos of drunkenness are popular, but fail to show the harms of too much drinking, a new study finds.
Socially rewarding escapades
"There has been little research examining internet-based, alcohol-related messaging," study author Dr. Brian Primack, director of the University of Pittsburgh's Centre for Research on Media, Technology, and Health, said in a university news release.
"While we know that some viewers may be savvy enough to sceptically view music videos or advertisements portraying intoxication as fun, those same viewers may be less cynical when viewing user-generated YouTube videos portraying humorous and socially rewarding escapades of a group of intoxicated peers," he noted.
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In the study, the researchers used five terms – drunk, buzzed, hammered, tipsy and trashed – to search YouTube and found that the 70 most popular videos depicting drunken behaviour had a total of more than 330 million views.
Humour was featured in 79 percent of the videos, and motor vehicle use occurred in 24 percent of the videos. On average, there were about 23 "likes" for every "dislike", the investigators found.
89 percent more males in videos
Males were more likely than females to be in the videos (89 percent versus 49 percent, respectively), and a specific brand of alcohol was referred to in 44 percent of the videos.
Even though 86 percent of the videos showed active intoxication, only 7 percent included references to alcohol dependence, according to the study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.
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The popularity of these videos could provide an opportunity to educate teens and young adults about the dangers of drinking, the researchers suggested.
The fact that nearly half the videos included references to specific alcohol brands was a concern, Primack said. Prior research has found that alcohol brand references in popular media encourage drinking.
Valuable in guiding interventions
"This is the first comprehensive attempt to analyse YouTube data on intoxication, and these statistics should be valuable in guiding interventions," said Primack, who is also assistant vice chancellor for health and society in the university's Schools of the Health Sciences.
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"For example, we know that men tend to report more frequent binge drinking than women and that alcohol use is perceived as more socially acceptable for men. Because they are portrayed more frequently in YouTube videos, it may be useful to target men with future interventions debunking alcohol-related myths propagated on social media," he concluded.
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