149650 Content analysis of references to substance abuse in popular music

Wednesday, November 7, 2007: 3:24 PM

Brian A. Primack, MD, EdM , Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Mary Carroll , Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Aaron Agarwal , Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA
Background: Individuals aged 8-18 are exposed to popular music 104 minutes daily, or over 12 hours each week. Substance use references in media have been linked to actual substance use in adolescents.

Methods: We analyzed the most popular songs of 2005 according to Billboard magazine, coding references, motivations, associations, and consequences related to substance use. Two coders working independently had excellent agreement using Cohen's kappa statistic.

Results: Ninety-three (33%) of the 279 unique songs identified by Billboard portrayed substance use, with an average of 35.2 references per hour. Substance use varied significantly by genre: 37% of songs for Country, 12% for Pop, 29% for R&B/Hip-Hop, 86% for Rap, and 14% for Rock. While only 3% of songs portrayed tobacco use, 24% depicted alcohol, 14% marijuana, and 12% use of other or unknown substances. Substance use was most often motivated by peer/social pressure (48%), sex (30%), money (25%), and/or mood management (17%). Substance use was commonly associated with partying (54%), sex (46%), violence (29%), and/or humor (24%). Four songs (4%) contained explicit anti-use messages, one song (1%) referred to limit setting, and zero portrayed substance use refusal. The majority of songs (68%) with substance use portrayed more positive than negative consequences of use; these consequences were most commonly social, sexual, financial, or emotional.

Discussion: Children and adolescents are heavily exposed to substance use in popular music. This exposure varies widely by genre. Substance use depicted is frequently motivated by peer acceptance and sex, and it has highly positive associations and consequences.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize the level to which American adolescents are exposed to popular music 2. Describe which substances of abuse are most commonly represented in various genres of popular music 3. Articulate common motivations for, associations with, and consequences of substance use portrayed in popular music

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Any relevant financial relationships? No
Any institutionally-contracted trials related to this submission?

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.