A rem­edy for recklessness? Try a med­i­cal drama

Modern Healthcare - - OUTLIERS ASIDES & INSIDES -

Med­i­cal dra­mas such as “ER,” “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy” are of­ten crit­i­cized for their un­re­al­is­tic por­trayal of the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion.

But what if those sen­sa­tional sto­ry­lines were ac­tu­ally do­ing a pub­lic ser­vice for ado­les­cents, mak­ing them less likely to en­gage in reck­less be­hav­ior?

Ac­tion movies that glorify risk tend to en­cour­age thrill-seek­ing be­hav­ior in teens, a cor­re­la­tion that’s been well­doc­u­mented. But sen­sa­tion­al­iz­ing bad out­comes may ac­tu­ally have a counter ef­fect on teen be­hav­ior.

A study out of Bel­gium found that teenagers who were avid view­ers of med­i­cal dra­mas ei­ther be­fore or shortly af­ter get­ting their driver’s li­censes had greater fears of be­ing in a car crash, and were more likely to have neg­a­tive at­ti­tudes to­ward speed­ing, even five years later.

That as­so­ci­a­tion held true re­gard­less of the teens’ other tele­vi­sion habits, over­all sen­sa­tion­seek­ing be­hav­ior or gen­der.

So­cial sci­en­tist Kath­leen Beul­lens and col­leagues at the Leu­ven School for Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Re­search in Bel­gium con­ducted a five-year lon­gi­tu­di­nal study of 487 ado­les­cents, who were ques­tioned about their med­i­cal-drama view­ing habits, their level of fear about get­ting into a crash and their at­ti­tudes to­ward speed­ing.

Beul­lens’ re­search also showed that teens who fre­quently watch TV news—which can fea­ture sen­sa­tional “if-it-bleeds-it-leads” cov­er­age— demon­strated the same cau­tion.

But of course, there’s no Dr. McDreamy on the 6 o’clock news. So a dose of med­i­cal drama could de­liver the right mea­sure of cau­tion.


Could watch­ing may­hem on “Grey’s Anatomy” make you a safer driver?

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