Researchers from the University of Adelaide and SAHMRI are calling for stronger regulation of how alcohol use is depicted on TV after an in-depth study of the reality show Bachelor in Paradise.
The research, published in Alcohol and Alcoholism, led by University of Adelaide NHMRC Early Career Fellow and Deputy Director of SAHMRI Health Policy Centre, Dr Jacqueline Bowden, focused on the first series of the Network Ten dating show, which launches its third season this week. The team divided each episode into one-minute intervals, then catalogued the depictions of alcohol in each segment.
“Alcohol was shown or referenced in more than 70% of the one-minute intervals across each of the show’s 16-episode series,” Dr Bowden said.
The first depiction of alcohol also occurred in the first or second interval of all 16 episodes and was twice as prevalent as non-alcoholic content.
Harmful alcohol consumption has been causally linked to over 200 health conditions, costs the Australian community approximately $36 billion per annum, and causes over 5500 deaths a year.
Dr Bowden says the high volume of alcohol content in Bachelor in Paradise was concerning, especially for children, young adults and other vulnerable viewers.
“We weren’t shocked that reality shows depict drinking but the fact it was so widespread in this program is very concerning and sends the wrong message to young people and the community about drinking,”NHMRC Early Career Fellow and Deputy Director of SAHMRI Health Policy Centre, Dr Jacqueline Bowden
Viewer demographics show there were 47,000 viewers in the 6-17 year-old age bracket, and 81,000 viewers aged 18-24.
“We weren’t shocked that reality shows depict drinking but the fact it was so widespread in this program is very concerning and sends the wrong message to young people and the community about drinking,” she said.
“Alcohol remains the leading cause of death and disability in 15-24 year-olds globally and hospital emergency presentations are increasing in this age group in Australia.
“Higher exposure to traditional forms of alcohol marketing among young people is associated with increased alcohol uptake, increased consumption and increased binging and hazardous drinking levels. This is also likely to be the case for reality TV shows.”
Dr Bowden says the prevalence of alcohol in Bachelor in Paradise gives the impression that drinking is more prevalent among young people than it really is.
“In terms of alcohol use, this ‘reality’ show doesn’t match reality and there are unintended consequences to that,” she said.
“Producers of reality TV shows such as this should be cognisant that portraying alcohol products like this glamorises drinking for young people,” she said.
“The results of this study support calls for a regulatory regime by government that protects young people more effectively from exposure to alcohol, capturing both traditional forms of advertising and also non-traditional forms like those captured in TV and movies.”