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Meta-Analysis: Social media use linked to drinking behaviors among adolescents and young adults

A 2015 study found 90% of 18-to-29-year-olds in the U.S. used social media networking sites, such as Facebook or Twitter; however, little research has investigated the relationships between social media use and drinking behavior. A recent meta-analysis examined published literature on this topic in order to evaluate the association of alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems with alcohol-related social media engagement (i.e., pictures of users drinking alcohol). The authors followed Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews & Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) protocol for selecting articles. Measures of interest included the social media platform used, social media measures assessed (i.e., number of alcohol posts), alcohol-related measures used (i.e., Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index [RAPI]), and the number of points in time at which data were collected. The following characteristics were tested as moderators: (i) study design (whether the alcohol-related social media engagement and alcohol consumption were measured jointly at once or individually at different time points), (ii) the social media platform with which alcohol-related social media engagement was assessed, (iii) the method used to measure alcohol consumption, (iv) statistical analysis used, and (v) study location. The final sample consisted of 19 articles, nearly all of which (n = 18) assessed Facebook postings. The authors used a random-effects model and the Q statistic to determine whether there was significant variability among study effect sizes. Results indicated the weighted effect size was moderate (r = 0.36 [95% CI: 0.29 to 0.44]; p < 0.001) and the heterogeneity between studies accounted for 93% of the variability in correlations (I 2 = 0.93). Results of a metaregression analysis found study type was a significant moderator (b = 0.22, p = 0.02). The weighted correlation for studies that examined both alcohol-related social media engagement and alcohol consumption at a single point in time was twice as large as that of studies that did so at two different points (r = 0.40 and r = 0.20, respectively). Timing of assessment and measurement type combined accounted for nearly half of the between-study variability; however, there was still significant variability (p = 0.014). The authors found no significant moderators of this variability. Limitations of this meta-analysis include different measures of effect across studies and wide variation in methods used to measure social media influence and alcohol consumption.

Take away: Among this sample of 19 published articles, greater alcohol-related social media engagement was positively correlated with greater self-reported alcohol consumption and consequences, although it was difficult to compare these variables across studies.

Curtis, B.L., Lookatch, S.J., Ramo, D.E., McKay, J.R., Feinn, R.S. & Kranzler, H.R. (2018). Meta-Analysis of the association of alcohol-related social media use with alcohol consumption and alcohol-related problems in adolescents and young adults. Alcoholism: Clinical an Experimental Research [published online ahead of print May 22, 2018] doi: 10.1111/acer.13642

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