TV hospital drama feeding teenage ‘health fears’

Wednesday 10th September, 2008

Medical drama on TVWatching too many television hospital dramas may make you fearful about your own state of health, say Belgian psychologists.

The research claims that programmes such as Casualty, Holby, ER and Grey’s Anatomy have a subliminal influence.

The study involved 1,300 teenagers questioning them about their TV viewing habits. Results highlighted that worries increased among those who watched more medical-based drama.

Fretting about health and illness is common among teenagers, according to a UK expert. This latest research was presented to the British Psychological Society on Wednesday 10th September.

Health fears in teenagers increased by up to 10% from viewing hospital dramas with girls affected more than boys. Even hospital documentaries were implicated in the problem.

“The findings revealed that exposure to television images of medical characters was strongly associated with fear of illness,” said Dr Jan Van Mierlo from Hasselt University.

“Specifically, fear of illness increased with age and girls were more afraid of illness than boys.

“Future research should examine the long-term impact of specific types of medical TV programme on fear of illness, such as medical documentaries, reality programmes and hospital dramas as these could potentially be doing as much harm as good.”

Medical-based drama have in the past been praised for raising awareness about lesser-known conditions but have come under fire for their unrealistic depictions of heart attacks and resuscitation.

“We do still try to protect our children from the idea of illness and death, and if they see a lot of programmes where grannies, mothers and aunties are dying, this may affect them,” said Dr Cynthia McVey, Head of Psychology at Glasgow Caledonian University.

“Teenagers do tend to be particularly self-obsessed, perhaps because of the changes in their bodies, so might be prone to these worries.

“There is still the possibility that teenagers with an existing morbid fascination towards these themes might be drawn to watch medical dramas, so it does not necessarily prove that the programmes have caused the problem.”



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