This may not be a terribly surprising finding, but research out of Ohio State University shows that TV dramas can affect health behavior. In a study involving more than 350 undergraduate students, female students who watched an episode of The O.C. on teen pregnancy said two weeks after their viewing that they planned to take steps to avoid getting pregnant themselves. From the release:
Findings showed that viewers who said they identified with the two main characters in The OC episode also felt, when contacted two weeks later, that they were more vulnerable to an unplanned pregnancy. That, in turn, led to greater intentions to use birth control.
“Many of the women participants were able to put themselves in the place of the characters and sense they could end up in a similar situation if they weren’t careful,” [Emily Moyer-Gusé, co-author of the study and assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University], PhD, said.
Feeling vulnerable was the key to accepting birth control practices for the women in the study.
Interestingly, male students said two weeks after watching the show that they were less likely to use birth control - most likely because, Moyer-Gusé said, they didn't like the show or identify with the characters as much as the women did. And watching a news program on the difficulties of teen pregnancy failed to alter any (male or female) viewer's intention to use birth control.
The work appears in the journal Human Communication Research.