What Are We Drinking? Beverages Shown in Adolescents’ Favorite Television Shows

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6 Scopus citations


Background Media use has been shown to contribute to poor dietary intake; however, little attention has been paid to programming content. The portrayal of health behaviors in television (TV) programming contributes to social norms among viewers, which have been shown to influence adolescent behavior. Objective This study reports on a content analysis of beverages shown in a sample of TV shows popular with a large, diverse group of adolescents, with attention to the types of beverages and differences across shows and characters. Design Favorite TV shows were assessed in an in-school survey in 2010. Three episodes of each of the top 25 shows were analyzed, using a detailed coding instrument. Key measures Beverage incidents (ie, beverage shown or described) were recorded. Beverage types included milk, sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs), diet beverages, juice, water, alcoholic drinks, and coffee. Characters were coded with regard to gender, age group, race, and weight status. Shows were rated for a youth, general, or adult audience. Statistical analyses χ2 tests were used to compare the prevalence of each type of beverage across show ratings (youth, general, adult), and to compare characteristics of those involved in each type of beverage incident. Results Beverage incidents were common (mean=7.4 incidents/episode, range=0 to 25). Alcohol was the most commonly shown (38.8%); milk (5.8%) and juice (5.8%) were least common; 11.0% of incidents included SSBs. Significant differences in all types of beverage were found across characters’ age groups. Almost half of young adults’ (49.2%) or adults’ (42.0%) beverage incidents included alcohol. Conclusions Beverages are often portrayed on TV shows viewed by adolescents, and common beverages (alcohol, SSBs) may have adverse consequences for health. The portrayal of these beverages likely contributes to social norms regarding their desirability; nutrition and health professionals should talk with youth about TV portrayals to prevent the adoption of unhealthy beverage behaviors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)763-769
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics


  • Adolescence
  • Beverages
  • Content analysis
  • Mass media
  • Social norms


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