How to prevent alcohol advertising being used to push an alcohol-based product or service?
In the past, alcohol advertising has been a cheap way to sell alcohol, often to young people and to consumers who don’t care about alcohol or want to know more about its health effects.
However, the new research by University of Western Australia and the University of Sydney suggests that alcohol advertising can be effective at influencing people towards healthier behaviour.
The research team from the School of Health and Social Policy at the University’s Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences (FSBS) used online social media data from over 600,000 people across the country to examine the effects of advertising on health.
“Our research indicates that advertising can play a key role in promoting healthy behaviours among the general population,” Dr Jeroen Oersland, Associate Professor in the School’s Faculty and one of the lead authors, said.
“We also found that advertising on alcohol-related topics has a positive impact on health in general, but that in certain contexts, it can have a negative impact.”
Dr Oerslands research group found that advertisements on alcohol related topics are more likely to influence people towards consuming less alcohol, which is generally a healthy behaviour.
In particular, it appears that ads that emphasise healthy behaviours, such as eating less and exercising, or providing a more positive image of drinking, increase the likelihood of consuming less than they otherwise would.
“If alcohol advertising is not a direct or indirect promotion of alcohol consumption, it is likely to promote unhealthy behaviours such as drinking, obesity, smoking and the use of other drugs,” Dr Oerlands said.
The researchers found that alcohol-associated topics were more likely in the top 10% of ads on social media and in the most-shared posts.
In contrast, advertising that emphasised health-related behaviours, like smoking cessation, exercise, weight loss, and drinking more were more common in the bottom 10%.
Dr Oederman added that alcohol ads are often used to promote health claims or as a quick-fix marketing tool.
“Many of these campaigns are targeted to specific groups of people, such that they are easily seen and targeted to the most vulnerable in society,” Dr Tynan said.
It is important to remember that this research only found the effect of alcohol ads on health, not the effectiveness of the ads themselves.
Dr Oestlund said that advertising may also influence other behaviours such an people’s attitudes towards alcohol, or whether they have an alcohol dependency.
“A strong correlation between the level of alcohol advertising and a person’s willingness to drink and drive, the extent to which people drink and have a drink, and the level to which they use alcohol is not surprising,” Dr Ewart said.
For the study, Dr Osterlund and colleagues conducted a series of online experiments with the Australian Social Attitudes survey.
They found that both individuals who were most likely to be alcohol dependent were also the most likely of all people to drink, drive and smoke.
The study also found people who drank more often were more inclined to drink than those who drank less often.
This suggests that individuals who are more inclined towards alcohol consumption may be more likely than others to drink in the future.
“Although the results suggest that alcohol advertisements may have a positive effect on alcohol consumption and behaviour, we have yet to explore the mechanisms through which this may occur,” Dr Atslaug said.
Dr Ternan said the research shows that advertising in general is likely ineffective at promoting healthy behaviour in the population at large.
“In addition to the general health risks associated with drinking and driving, alcohol is a very expensive substance, and a lot of research has been done on the effects that advertising and health campaigns have on alcohol and health,” Dr Hulst said.
However the research showed that alcohol advertisement can have positive effects on people’s mental health.
Dr Eostrup said alcohol advertising should be used to raise awareness about the health effects of alcohol and the importance of quitting.
“Alcohol is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and dementia, and it can even lead to cancer,” Dr Loesa said.