Researchers say YouTube could encourage drinking too much

New research into YouTube has found that the majority of videos on the site that feature drinking glamourise being three sheets to the wind. (Probably because nauseous hangover videos tend not to rake in the big ad money…)

Brian A Primack, an associate professor of medicine and paediatrics, and his colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh looked at the 70 most popular alcohol-related YouTube videos. They created 42 different codes in order to analyse them in detail, giving each video marks in categories including the amount and type of alcohol used, and the consequences of getting drunk (if any).

Each video was around four minutes long, and all had been viewed several million times. They were more likely to feature men than women. In 86% of cases, someone was actively drunk, compared to 7% of the videos which referred to withdrawal or addiction. Videos based around humour, where brand names were dropped, and where no negative side-effects were mentioned got the most likes, because no one likes a Debbie Downer. (Or their liver, apparently.)

Primack says that many studies have linked watching movies that include alcohol abuse with drinking too much, but there’s no definitive proof that films or TV or YouTube clips make people more likely to drink. However, he’s concerned about young people who’ll see fun alcohol-related content before they’ve even had their first hangover, and not realise the potentially fatal consequences of drinking until you pass out.

His conclusion is that using YouTube to reach teen fans of these videos could be a good way to warn them about the dangers of drinking too much. At the very least, if there were more educational videos on the site to balance things out, young people might click on them by accident. Whether that’ll get the message across or just result in them leaving some of the worst comments known to humanity, however, remains to be seen.

Diane Shipley

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