27 February 2017 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Alcohol warning labels have a limited effect on drinking behavior, potentially because people devote minimal attention to them. We report findings from two studies in which we measured the extent to which alcohol consumers attend to warning labels on alcohol packaging, and aimed to identify if increased attention to warning labels is associated with motivation to change drinking behavior.

METHODS: Study 1 (N = 60) was an exploratory cross-sectional study in which we used eye-tracking to measure visual attention to brand and health information on alcohol and soda containers. In study 2 (N = 120) we manipulated motivation to reduce drinking using an alcohol brief intervention (vs control intervention) and measured heavy drinkers' attention to branding and warning labels with the same eye-tracking paradigm as in study 1. Then, in a separate task we experimentally manipulated attention by drawing a brightly colored border around health (or brand) information before measuring participants' self-reported drinking intentions for the subsequent week.

RESULTS: Study 1 showed that participants paid minimal attention to warning labels (7% of viewing time). Participants who were motivated to reduce drinking paid less attention to alcohol branding and alcohol warning labels. Results from study 2 showed that the alcohol brief intervention decreased attention to branding compared to the control condition, but it did not affect attention to warning labels. Furthermore, the experimental manipulation of attention to health or brand information did not influence drinking intentions for the subsequent week.

CONCLUSIONS: Alcohol consumers allocate minimal attention to warning labels on alcohol packaging and even if their attention is directed to these warning labels, this has no impact on their drinking intentions. The lack of attention to warning labels, even among people who actively want to cut down, suggests that there is room for improvement in the content of health warnings on alcohol packaging.

01 February 2017 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Explicit labelling of lower strength alcohol products could reduce alcohol consumption by attracting more people to buy and drink such products instead of higher strength ones. Alternatively, it may lead to more consumption due to a 'self-licensing' mechanism. Equivalent labelling of food or tobacco (for example "Low fat" or "Low tar") could influence consumption of those products by similar mechanisms. This systematic review examined the effects of 'Low alcohol' and equivalent labelling of alcohol, food and tobacco products on selection, consumption, and perceptions of products among adults.

METHODS: A systematic review was conducted based on Cochrane methods. Electronic and snowball searches identified 26 eligible studies. Evidence from 12 randomised controlled trials (all on food) was assessed for risk of bias, synthesised using random effects meta-analysis, and interpreted in conjunction with evidence from 14 non-randomised studies (one on alcohol, seven on food and six on tobacco). Outcomes assessed were: quantities of the product (i) selected or (ii) consumed (primary outcomes - behaviours), (iii) intentions to select or consume the product, (iv) beliefs associated with it consumption, (v) product appeal, and (vi) understanding of the label (secondary outcomes - cognitions).

RESULTS: Evidence for impacts on the primary outcomes (i.e. amounts selected or consumed) was overall of very low quality, showing mixed effects, likely to vary by specific label descriptors, products and population characteristics. Overall very low quality evidence suggested that exposure to 'Low alcohol' and equivalent labelling on alcohol, food and tobacco products can shift consumer perceptions of products, with the potential to 'self-licence' excess consumption.

CONCLUSIONS: Considerable uncertainty remains about the effects of labels denoting low alcohol, and equivalent labels, on alcohol, food and tobacco selection and consumption. Independent, high-quality studies are urgently needed to inform policies on labelling regulations.

21 September 2016 In Social and Cultural Aspects

AIMS: To conduct a systematic review of studies exploring the relationship between exposure to Internet-based alcohol-related content and alcohol use among young people.

METHODS: Searches of electronic databases and reference lists of relevant articles were conducted to retrieve studies of relevance up until December 2015. Full texts of the studies that met the inclusion criteria were read, appraised for quality using the Kmet forms and guidelines, and included in this review.

RESULTS: Fifteen relevant studies were identified. The included studies were a mix of cross-sectional, longitudinal, experimental and qualitative studies conducted in the USA, the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The age range of the participants involved in these studies was 12-25 years. Included studies employed a variety of study designs and a range of different exposure variables and outcome measures. Studies demonstrated significant associations between exposure to Internet-based alcohol-related content and intentions to drink and positive attitudes towards alcohol drinking among young people.

CONCLUSION: Exposure to alcohol-related content on the Internet might predispose young people to patterns of alcohol use by promoting alcohol as a natural and vital part of life. However, the research exploring the influence of this novel form of advertising on young people's alcohol use is emergent, and comprised primarily of cross-sectional studies. To evaluate the direction of the association between exposure to online alcohol-related content and alcohol use, we call for further research based on longitudinal designs.

SHORT SUMMARY: From 15 relevant studies identified, this review reports significant associations between exposure to Internet-based alcohol-related content and intentions to drink and positive attitudes towards alcohol drinking among young people, with different influences found at different stages of alcohol use.

02 August 2016 In Social and Cultural Aspects

BACKGROUND: Changing trends demonstrate that women, in a number of economically-developed countries, are drinking at higher levels than ever before. Exploring key targets for intervention, this study examined the extent to which underlying beliefs in relation to alcohol consumption predicted intentions to drink in three different ways (i.e. low risk drinking, frequent drinking and binge drinking).

METHODS: Utilizing a prospective design survey, women (N = 1069), aged 18-87 years, completed a questionnaire measuring their beliefs and intentions regarding alcohol consumption. Then, two weeks later, 845 of the original sample, completed a follow-up questionnaire reporting their engagement in the drinking behaviors. A mixed design ANOVA was conducted to examine potential differences between women of different age groups (18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55 years and above) and their intentions to engage in the three different drinking behaviors. Based upon The Theory of Planned Behavior, critical beliefs analyses were carried out to identify key determinants underlying intentions to engage in the three different drinking behaviors.

RESULTS: Significant effects of age were found in relation to frequent and binge drinking. The critical beliefs analyses revealed that a number of behavioral, control and normative beliefs were significant predictors of intentions. These beliefs varied according to age group and drinking behavior.

CONCLUSIONS: Previously unidentified key factors that influence women's decisions to drink in certain ways have been established. Overall, future interventions and public policy may be better tailored so as to address specific age groups and drinking behaviors.

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