A large systematic review of more than 13,000 people suggests that exposure to ads and product placements, even those supposedly not directed at young people, lead to increased alcohol consumption in young men.

The researchers collated information from seven rigorously selected studies, featuring information on 13,255 participants. This systematic review is the first to study the effects of advertising, product placement in films, games, sporting events and music videos, depictions of drinking in various media, and exposure to product stands in shops.

The authors found that exposure to TV alcohol advertisements was associated with an increased tendency to drink, as were magazine advertisements and concession stands at sporting events or concerts. Hours spent watching films, playing games and watching music videos also correlated with young peoples' tendency to consume alcoholic beverages.

All the studies demonstrated significant effects across a range of different exposure variables and outcome measures. One showed that for each additional hour of TV viewing per day the average risk of starting to drink increased by 9% during the following 18 months. Another found that for each additional hour of exposure to alcohol use depicted in popular movies there was a 15% increase in likelihood of having tried alcohol 13 to 26 months later.

The authors recommended counter-advertising, social marketing, parenting programmes but also price increases and limiting availability in order to limit alcohol problems in young people.