Alcohol marketing on social networking sites (SNS) is associated with alcohol use among young people. Alcohol companies adapt their online marketing content to specific national contexts and responses to such content differ by national settings. However, there exists very little academic work comparing the association between alcohol marketing on SNS and alcohol use among young people in different national settings and across different SNS. Therefore, we aimed to extend the limited existing work by investigating and comparing the association between self-reported exposure to alcohol marketing on three leading SNS (Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter) and alcohol use among young people in diverse national contexts (India and Australia).
Cross-sectional, self-report data were obtained from a convenience sample of 631 respondents (330 in India; 301 in Australia) aged 13-25 years via online surveys. Respondents answered questions on their drinking behaviors and involvement with alcohol marketing on SNS.
Many respondents from both countries reported interacting with alcohol content online, predominantly on Facebook, followed by YouTube and then Twitter. The interaction was primarily in the forms of posting/liking/sharing/commenting on items posted on alcohol companies' social media accounts, viewing the event page/attending the event advertised by an alcohol company via social media, and/or accessing an alcohol website. Multivariate analyses demonstrated significant associations between respondents' interaction with alcohol content and drinking levels, with effects differing by SNS, demographic group, and country. For example, having friends who shared alcohol-related content was an important predictor of usual alcohol consumption for Indian respondents (p < .001), whereas posting alcohol-related information themselves was a stronger predictor among Australians (p < .001).
The results suggest that interaction with alcohol-related content on SNS is associated with young people's alcohol use behaviors and that these behaviors vary by national settings. This study extends previous work by demonstrating this connection across varying social media platforms and national contexts. The results highlight the need to formulate and implement strategies to effectively regulate the SNS alcohol marketing, especially among younger SNS users.