Sick From Watching Medical Shows?

Millions watch medical shows such as Grey’s Anatomy, House, and E.R. each week. Yet watching a heavy dose of medical news and drama on television can lead to hypochondria and can reduce people’s satisfaction with life, according to a study by Yinjiao Ye, assistant professor of communication studies, Harrington School of Communication and Media.

In the study, Ye surveyed 274 students in the College of Communications at the University of Alabama about their TV viewing and life satisfaction. They were not told the purpose of the survey.

The study, published in the September issue of the journal Mass Communication and Society, found TV viewing led the students to believe they had a greater likelihood of being victimized by health risks and that the risks were severe.

Since most people learn important information about health risks from the mass media, there is clearly a double-edged-sword effect at work here. As people become more knowledgeable, they enjoy life less. But ignorance, at least of TV’s presentations of medical information, is closer to bliss.

These findings extend previous research that TV viewing can cause people to be less satisfied with their lives because it makes them more materialistic and causes them to overestimate other people’s possessions compared to their own. Now getting sick and not being able to do much about it can be added as a second cause of life dissatisfaction.

College students are generally associated with good health and vitality. “While this surveyed group shows dissatisfaction, I suspect that if I surveyed a more general population the dissatisfaction would be even higher,” says the researcher.