Effectiveness of mass media campaigns to reduce alcohol consumption and harm: a systematic review (Meeting Abstract)

Ben Young, Sarah Lewis, Srinivasa Vittal Katikireddi, Linda Bauld, Martine Stead, Kathryn Angus, Mhairi Campbell, Shona Hilton, James Thomas, Kate Hinds, Adela Ashie, Tessa Langley

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract


There were 8758 alcohol-related deaths in the UK in 2015 and an estimated 1·1 million alcohol-related hospital admissions in England in 2014–15. Mass media campaigns are used to communicate public health messages at a population level but whether campaigns intended to reduce alcohol consumption achieve their aims is unclear. With a systematic review, we aimed to assess the effectiveness of mass media public health messages to reduce alcohol consumption and related harms.
Eight databases were searched (Medline, EMBASE, PubMed, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, Scopus, ASSIA, ERIC) with no date restriction (appendix) along with reference lists of eligible studies. Searches combined subject headings and terms for interventions and outcomes. English language reports of studies of any design and in any country were eligible for inclusion, provided they evaluated a mass media intervention targeting alcohol consumption or related behavioural, social cognitive, media, or clinical outcomes. Drink driving and college campus campaigns were ineligible. Studies were assessed for quality, data were extracted, and a narrative synthesis conducted. This study is registered with PROSPERO, number CRD42017054999.
Searches produced 10 212 results, and 24 studies were included in the review. Most campaigns used television or radio in combination with other media channels, were conducted in developed countries, and were of weak quality. Of 13 studies that measured changes in alcohol consumption, two reported statistically significant reductions in consumption associated with exposure to campaigns, although only six campaigns directly aimed to achieve this effect. Three of four studies reported increases in treatment seeking or information seeking. There was mixed evidence from eight studies of changes in intentions, motivation, beliefs, and attitudes about alcohol. Campaigns were associated with increases in knowledge about alcohol consumption in five of eight studies, especially where levels had initially been low. Recall of campaigns ranged from 6 to 96% but was generally high in the 17 studies reporting this outcome.
Mass media can improve alcohol-related knowledge and awareness but according to the available evidence does not appear to reduce consumption. Campaigns may have an indirect effect on behaviour by providing support for other policies more likely to reduce alcohol consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S98
JournalThe Lancet
Issue numberSupplement 3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Oct 2017


  • mass media
  • public health
  • systematic review
  • alcohol
  • drinking


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