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Whether we know it or not, advertising affects us all—yes, even those of us who claim it doesn’t. Television shows, billboards, a commercial, or one of those brief, annoying ads between games of Words with Friends and Tetris: we all find ourselves battling (and oftentimes losing) that inner struggle between what we want and what we need. If a marketing team has done their job correctly, you won’t be able to tell the difference when all is said and done. You might have heard of the horrifying statistic that the average person is bombard with some five-thousand ads on any given day. Obviously it’s nowhere near possible for a person to take in that much information (fatigue kicks in, you might get distracted by your phone, whatever), but the recent findings of a study conducted by New Hampshire researchers at Dartmouth proves that the key majority of these ads, centered around beer and liquor, are nonetheless effective, affecting, and, especially with regards alcohol consumption among underage youth, harmful.

Background for the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics and via Medical News Today, explains that “alcohol contributes to the three leading causes of death among underage drinkers, which are intentional injury, homicide and suicide.” Unfortunately, it’s also the most popular drug of choice among young people: in 2013 alone, a whopping 62% of high school students reported trying alcohol—35% reported using in the past month, while 21% had participated in binge drinking. It is said that “In the US alone… producers of alcoholic drinks spend billions of dollars each year marketing their products; just 14 companies spent $3.45 billion on advertising in 2011.”

In conducting this study, researchers utilized both web- and phone-based surveys between 2011 and 2013 to determine just how much this money really affects drinking behaviors among some 2,500 youths aged 15-23. Based on each individual’s response—whether they had seen an ad, liked it, and could correctly recollect the brand—researchers were able to calculate an “alcohol receptivity score.”

It was revealed that 23.4% of the 15-17 age group had seen alcohol ads, with 29% of these reporting binge drinking and 18% to hazardous drinking. In the 18-20 year age group, 22.7% had seen alcohol ads, with 29% binge drinking and 19% hazardous drinking.

In the case of correlation not equating to causation, one would be hard-pressed to dispute that ads have a very addictive, interpersonal demeanor, whose sole purpose is to convey an inner need you might not have realized you had.

The researchers, speaking on current self-regulatory advertising standards, conclude:

“Our study found that familiarity with, and response to, images of television alcohol marketing was associated with the subsequent onset of drinking across a range of outcomes of varying severity among adolescents and young adults.

“Current self-regulatory standards for televised alcohol advertising appear to inadequately protect underage youth from exposure to televised alcohol advertising and its probable effect on behavior.”

What do you think?