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 well-documented. 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 sensation-seeking 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.