Mass media campaigns against underage drinking

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Date last updated

Mass media campaigns utilize television, radio, print, and social media to increase awareness of underage drinking and its consequences. Campaigns may be directed primarily at youth, and may also include efforts to provide parents and other adults with the knowledge and skills to take actions that help prevent underage drinking1, 2.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Reduced underage drinking

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Increased adult awareness of underage drinking

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether mass media campaigns against underage drinking reduce underage drinking3. Available evidence suggests that mass media campaigns may increase adolescents’ knowledge or alter perceived social norms about alcohol use in some circumstances, but have little or no effect on alcohol consumption among youth3. An evaluation of a national media campaign reported mixed effects on alcohol use; for youth ages 15-18, increased campaign awareness was associated with reductions in binge drinking, though such awareness was associated with accelerated alcohol use among youth ages 12-144. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects3.

Experts suggest that mass media campaigns that increase adult awareness of underage drinking may reduce underage drinking1. However, additional evidence is needed to confirm effects of increased parental knowledge on their monitoring and supervision regarding youth alcohol use1.

Implementation Examples

There are a variety of mass media interventions implemented throughout the country. Some examples include, Talk. They Hear You.2, Parents Who Host, Lose the Most5, and Alcohol: True Stories6.

Implementation Resources

SAMHSA-Talk - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Talk. They Hear You.

SAMHSA-Communities Talk - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Communities Talk. Tips and resources for a successful Communities Talk to Prevent Underage Drinking Activity.


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1 IOM-Underage drinking 2004 - Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Research Council (NRC), Committee on Developing a Strategy to Reduce and Prevent Underage Drinking, Board on Children, Youth, and Families (BCYF). Reducing underage drinking: A collective responsibility. (Bonnie RJ, O’Connell ME, eds.). Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press; 2004.

2 SAMHSA-Talk - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Talk. They Hear You.

3 Young 2018a - Young B, Lewis S, Katikireddi SV, et al. Effectiveness of mass media campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption and harm: A systematic review. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2018;53(3):302-316.

4 Scheier 2010 - Scheier LM, Grenard JL. Influence of a nationwide social marketing campaign on adolescent drug use. Journal of Health Communication. 2010;15(3):240-271.

5 PAA-Parents who host - Prevention Action Alliance (PAA). Parents who host, lose the most: Don’t be a party to teenage drinking.

6 ATS - Family Health Productions. Alcohol: True stories discussion guide. Gloucester: Family Health Productions; 2003.