YouTube: A source of encouragement for alcohol consumption

New research shows that many YouTube videos portray alcohol intoxication in a positive light. To reach this conclusion researchers looked at 70 of the most popular videos on YouTube that were related to alcohol intoxication by searching YouTube using the terms “drunk”, “buzzed”, “hammered”, “tipsy”, and “trashed”. They found that in combination, these videos had a total of 333,246,875 views. Not only were these videos heavily viewed but they had more likes per one dislike; a median of 23.2 likes per one dislike indicating more positive sentiment than negative. To further analyse these videos they created six categories: video characteristics, character socio-demographics, alcohol depiction, degree of alcohol use, characteristics associated with alcohol, and consequences of alcohol.

Using these categories they were able to determine that 89% of videos involved males while only 49% involved females. This could be because drinking is more sociably acceptable among males and they report more episodic drinking than females. Liquor was the most commonly depicted alcohol, followed by beer and then wine. Furthermore, nearly half (44%) of these videos contained a brand reference. Liquor brands compromised nearly two-thirds of all brands mentioned, followed by beer (27%) and wine (7%). Researchers state that a major reason for mentioning brand references in these videos is because brands are important to users. Many individuals are familiar and motivated by brand identities. They found that viewer sentiment was strongest when videos depicted humour, games, attractiveness, and no intoxication or injury. So it is no surprise that 79% of videos juxtapose alcohol intoxication with humour and 24% with motor vehicles.

These videos rarely depicted negative clinical outcomes and there was a significant disparity between representation and reality. This can have a significant effect on viewers’ perception regarding alcohol use. However, the researchers suggest that the popularity of YouTube may provide an opportunity for public health intervention. For example, knowing that there is a higher depiction of males in these videos can help to target interventions.