Alcohol advertising restrictions lead to less hazardous drinkingNew research finds countries with greater alcohol advertising restrictions had lower prevalence of hazardous drinking than countries with no restrictions and countries with some restrictions; independent of variables such as alcohol taxation. Based on their findings, researchers suggest a need for strict alcohol advertisement restriction policies.

The researchers from the Pompeu Fabra Univerisity in Barcelona carried out a cross-sectional study based on the Survey of Health, Ageing and Retirement in Europe (SHARE) project surveys between 2010 and 2012. The researchers were interested in analyzing the association between alcohol advertising restrictions and the prevalence of hazardous drinking among people between the ages of 50 and 64 years in 16 European countries. Individual factors (age, sex, country of residence, employment status, level of studies, and self-perceived health) and contextual-level factors (degree of alcohol advertising restrictions, prevalence of abstainers, per capita alcohol consumption, patterns of drinking score, GDP and other alcohol control policies) were analyzed against hazardous drinking. Data was obtained from SHARE and the WHO database for alcohol. Alcohol advertising was classified by type of beverage (beer, spirits, wine) and type of media (TV, radio, billboards, etc.) and given a score assessing degree of restriction.

The results from the study show that of the 16 countries studied:
• 2 countries have high restrictions on alcohol advertising (lowest prevalence of hazardous drinking);
• 8 have some restrictions on alcohol advertising; and,
• 6 have little or no restrictions on alcohol advertising (highest prevalence of hazardous drinking).

An inverse relationship was observed: when the degree of restriction was higher, the prevalence of hazardous drinking was lower, after taking into account individual variables and GDP of the country.

Some limitations of this study include the small sample size, self-reported data on drinking consumption can lead to a bias, and the influence of other factors aside from the different factors controlled for in the study. Furthermore, advertising restrictions were classified based on a system by the World Health Organization, which involves self-reported data from each country. This does not include the degree of compliance with regulations in each country, offering a limitation.

Despite the limitations, there are some clear strengths of the study. It is the first study that offers cross-country comparisons by studying a representative sample of people aged 50 to 64 years. The researchers have also used multi-level statistical methods to analyze the association between hazardous drinking and the degree of advertising restrictions in countries. The association between the two illustrate a need for alcohol advertisement restriction policies.

The study will be published in the journal Addiction, later this year.

Bosque-Prous, M., Espelt, A., Guitart, A.M., Bartoli, M., Villabi, J.R., & Brugal, M.T. (2014). Association between stricter alcohol advertising regulations and lower hazardous drinking across European countries. Addiction. DOI: 10.1111/add.12562

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