: Responsible drinking messages (RDMs) are a key component of many education-based interventions for reducing alcohol harms. The evidence base for the effectiveness of RDMs is extremely limited, with some recent research suggesting iatrogenic effects of such messages. Objective
: To examine the effects of exposure to health messages on attitudes towards drinking and drunkenness, and intentions to drink and get drunk, amongst underage drinkers. Methods
: Ninety-four underage drinkers were recruited from colleges in the UK. Participants were either actively or passively exposed to one of two health messages (RDM or general wellbeing). Measures of attitudes and intentions towards drinking and drunkenness were obtained one week before and immediately after participation in the study. A unit estimation task was also included. Results
: Active exposure to RDMs led to more positive attitude towards drunkenness, while passive exposure led to more negative attitudes. Passive RDM exposure led to increased intentions to get drunk in future. Wellbeing posters produced the opposite effect in some but not all of these measures. Conclusions
: Exposure to RDMs may have some beneficial effects in terms of creating more negative attitudes towards alcohol consumption, but we also identified potential iatrogenic effects regarding attitudes and intentions towards drunkenness amongst an underage sample of drinkers. Further research is required to better understand optimal ways of framing RDMs to produce positive changes in attitudes, intentions, and prospective drinking behaviour.
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