Reality TV ‘bombarding’ viewers with alcohol imagery

Reality TV shows are exposing people to ‘high levels of alcohol content’, say researchers – a potential driver of alcohol use in young people.

reality tv
Alcohol appears frequently in shows like Love Island, Made in Chelsea and Married at First Sight Australia

Alcohol appears frequently in shows like Love Island, Made in Chelsea and Married at First Sight Australia, says the study published in The Journal of Public Health. 

The research looked at more than 260 episodes of 20 reality TV programmes shown between 2019 and 2020 in English-speaking countries to try to assess the potential exposure children and young people had to alcohol, tobacco and unhealthy foods, measured in one-minute intervals. Alcohol appeared across almost 40 per cent of intervals and in 98 per cent of the episodes studied, with alcohol use – mainly wine and champagne – seen in almost 1,000 of the intervals. Implied alcohol use, meanwhile, such as a person holding a drink, was seen in almost 4,200 intervals across 250 episodes. Alcohol branding was also seen in almost half of the episodes studied, with just under 150 different brands displayed. 

Seeing people drink on TV represented a form of ‘alcohol marketing’ that glamourised drinking, said chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK, Professor Sir Ian Gilmore. ‘As alcohol is an age-restricted, health harming product, children and young people in particular should be protected from exposure to alcohol marketing on the television shows that they watch. Numerous studies show that the more often young people are exposed to alcohol marketing, the more likely they are to start drinking at an earlier age. This research demonstrates the extent to which the British public is bombarded by alcohol marketing and imagery. If we expect any change, the government must introduce comprehensive restrictions to ensure that young people are protected from alcohol marketing in all its forms in TV programming.’

Exposure to tobacco, alcohol and ‘Junk food’ content in reality TV programmes broadcast in the UK between August 2019 – 2020 at

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