Newswise — Despite the pervasive use of social media by young adults, little is known about whether, and how, social-media engagement influences their drinking patterns and risk of alcohol-related problems. Reviews thus far have looked at drinking relative to risky behaviors and advertising. This review examined associations between young adults’ alcohol-related social-media activity – defined as posting, liking, commenting on, and viewing of alcohol-related content on social media – and their drinking behaviors and alcohol-related problems.

A systematic review and meta-analysis of studies evaluating the association of alcohol consumption and related problems with alcohol-related social-media activity found moderate-sized effects across 19 studies.  The authors examined the effect of common elements in the published studies: the social-media platform; social-media measures that were assessed (for example, number of alcohol photos posted); the alcohol measures used in the study; and the number of time points when data were collected.

Greater alcohol-related social-media engagement correlated with both greater self-reported drinking and alcohol-related problems.  The authors called for further research to determine the causal direction of these associations, which could not be determined from the available studies. Furthermore, given that social-media sites can expose adolescents and young adults to alcohol content and marketing, and this exposure may increase the likelihood of their drinking, the authors emphasized the need for social media-based interventions designed to reduce drinking and associated negative consequences.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research