Do media messages change people's risk perceptions for binge drinking?

Alcohol Alcohol. 2012 Jan-Feb;47(1):52-6. doi: 10.1093/alcalc/agr052. Epub 2011 May 18.


Aims: The current study investigated the effect of a media health message for drinking on risk perception estimates (comparative optimism).

Methods: Sixty-five young adults who regularly drink alcohol watched an anti-drinking scenario (having an accident due to drinking). There were two intervention conditions: 30 participants 'imagined' they were part of the scenario, and 35 'watched' the scenario. They then completed four comparative optimism estimates comparing themselves to those the same age and gender with similar drinking habits. The four comparisons were of their likelihood of being involved in an accident due to drinking; having unprotected sex, when under the influence of alcohol; having a car accident due to drinking (drivers only) and developing cirrhosis. There was also a control group (n = 59) who just completed the questionnaires.

Results: Both intervention groups reported significantly lower comparative optimism for accident, unprotected sex and car accident than the control group. The 'imagine' group reported significantly lower comparative optimism than the 'watch' group for accidents.

Conclusions: These results highlighted that media messages can successfully change people's risk perception, and also that imagination can be a powerful tool in changing risk perceptions associated with binge drinking.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control
  • Alcohol Drinking / psychology*
  • Ethanol / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Social Perception*
  • Young Adult


  • Ethanol