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Alcohol, marketing and wellbeing: bad news?

October 16, 2012

We’ve all heard about the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption: physically it can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, pancreatitis, polyneuropathy, alcoholic dementia, heart disease, increased chance of cancer, nutritional deficiencies, and sexual dysfunction.  It’s also a depressant, and can have a powerful negative effect on your mood.

Taken in moderation, there’s nothing wrong with a drink or two, but what effect is the marketing of alcohol having on society and its consumption?

Lance Barrie is the Research Manager at the Centre for Health Initiatives (University of Wollongong) and works across the topic of alcohol and young people including alcohol marketing and advertising.  He believes the effect of marketing is insidious, and recalls a focus group he held with young people to determine their susceptibility to alcohol marketing:

One young male held very firm beliefs at the start of the session that he couldn’t possibly be ‘tricked’ by the alcohol industry in to buying a promotion and that he wasn’t influenced by marketing in general. About 15 minutes into the session, I asked the participants if they had purchased any alcohol promotions recently. The young man then proceeded to tell the group that he had recently purchased a six pack and that he received two free beer glasses with his purchase. When he got home, he showed his mum the glasses and she quite liked them, so the next day she went down to the bottle shop and also purchased the same promotion. After further family discussion, the young man went back to the bottle shop a third time so that the family could complete the set and each family member would have their own glass. After he had told this story out loud, he started to think a little harder about the influence of such promotions!

How do you respond to alcohol marketing, or indeed, marketing in general?  How often are you unconsciously influenced to buy something that you don’t need, or perhaps might not be the best choice for your wellbeing?

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