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Do soap shows encourage teenage drinking?

10th March 2007

Popular soap shows are awash with alcohol, according to a survey published in The Food Magazine. Alcohol featured in 18% of scenes shown during Hollyoaks, in over 17% of scenes shown during Coronation Street and in over 16% of scenes shown during EastEnders and Emmerdale. Home and Away did better, with alcohol limited to just 6.7% of screen time.*

With a large proportion of teenage viewers there is concern that soap shows may be conditioning British teenagers to accept high alcohol consumption as the norm. Hollyoaks, which boasts that it is the UK’s most watched teenage drama serial, goes out Monday to Friday at 6.30pm, right after the Simpsons.

During the survey period alcohol appeared as the most dominant food group in Hollyoaks, appearing in almost 40% of background scenes. In contrast, dairy foods appeared as the dominant food group in less than 1% of shots.

Cally Matthews, author of the study said, “Soap shows are awash with scenes showing alcohol being consumed as part of a seemingly healthy lifestyle and appearing as a normal part of everyday life. There is a real danger that this naturalisation of alcohol consumption may desensitise teenagers to the dangers of excessive alcohol consumption.”

The survey data is backed up by other studies, including one for Alcohol Concern, the national agency on alcohol misuse. Their report, The Portrayal of Alcohol and Alcohol Consumption in Television News and Drama Programmes (Hansen 2003), surveyed soap opera content over several weeks and found, on average, seven drinking scenes per hour, with alcohol used primarily for celebrations and as an aid to romance. The study found no explicit portrayal of alcoholism and a tendency to portray potential problem drinkers in a humourous, or light-hearted way.

* Analysis took place over a two week period in July 2006

More information

Alcohol Concern: http://www.alcoholconcern.org.uk/

Contact: Cally Matthews on 020 7565 2810 or Jessica Mitchell on 020 7837 2250; email:press@foodcomm.org.uk

The following pages may also be of interest

  • Articles: Does TV encourage teenage drinking?
    The Food Magazine takes a look at alcohol in television soap operas and finds that alcohol accounts for considerable screen time in many popular soaps. Cally Matthews reports